Hartbeespoort towards Greater Hartbeespoort

Compiled by Albrecht Holm. English translation by Elise Lombaard.

Photo’s: Kormorant, Elmarie van Wyk, HOEV and Albrecht Holm.

June 2016



Ask any South African, here or overseas, “What is Hartbees-poort?” and you will hear “Oh, it is a place with water, mountains, natural beauty and a pleasant climate.” An image and a beautiful one too.

Not only moonshine and roses


Anger about potholes and other problems.


Sewage leaks, power interruptions, burst water pipes, empty reservoirs, dirty undrinkable water, littering, potholes, dust, squatter camps, crime, burglary, robbery, arson, air pollution, light pollution, visual pollution, infringement of traffic laws, reckless driving, road rage, lacking services, municipal mismanagement, collapsing infrastructure, corruption, squandering of billions worth of taxes.

All these result in decay of moral standards like civil pride, the feeling of place and community belonging, responsibility towards environment and fellow-man.

The patience of inhabitants of Madibeng is at breaking point!

Community leaders in Hartbeespoort are protesting!

Political solutions are being considered, such as redemarcation to be freed from the mismanagement of Madibeng.

This would be an arduous process and long term results are not guaranteed. There are structural problems in the system of services because the non-functional administrative system of municipal government is based on politics

Theoretically the politicized municipality should provide water and tarred roads for all its citizens, rich and poor, but unskilled administrators often grab the steering wheel and crash the bus load of rich and poor alike.

Legally the central government is responsible for taking care of the poor. It is illegal for the municipality to pay a long list of indigents – and that with property tax intended for capital expenditure.

The poor of Madibeng have been dissatisfied and protesting for a long time. The inhabitants of Hartbeespoort now plan to take control and fix matters themselves. But are we to have a revolution about potholes and sewage leakages? Surely these problems are present all over the country. Can a revolution be launched because of such matters? And if so and if it should succeed, how will the problems be dealt with sustainably afterwards?

A revolution requires more than the solving of technical problems. There is more, the potential of addressing missed opportunities. Hartbeespoort has the potential to become a place and community of excellence – an example for the rest of South Africa.

What is so special about Hartbeespoort and its people?

What is this concealed potential?


Natural beauty


THE MOUNTAINS, the oldest in the country and one of the oldest in the world, enjoy global acknowledgement by the UNESCO selection as Biosphere Reserve.

But what is the significance of the mountains for us?

THE VALLEYS in between the mountains are where people live. From there they can see the mountains which affect their lives.


The topography determines what happens in Hartbeespoort. It is “as old as the mountains”– immutable, unchanging.


Topographical map from Rustenburg to Pretoria
Bushveld:          Flat and monotonous. Rich in farming potential and underground minerals. Warm climate. Vegetation: bushes, grass and small treesMagaliesberg:    Visual and physical barrier between bushveld and middle veld (two climate zones and biomes) Vegetation: lower areas dense, higher areas sparseLarge Moot:       More temperate climate and dramatic landscape has intrigued and attracted humans. Vegetation: steppeWitwatersberg:   Smaller version of Magaliesberg, with similar rocks runs parallel to the Magaliesberg. Vegetation: as Magaliesberg

Small Moot:       Narrower and shorter than the Large Moot. Soil more broken. Vegetation: steppe (moot is Dutch for valley)

Bankenveld:       Transition to Highveld. Mainly dolomite formations and a different biome. Cooler climate. Vegetation grasslands.

River valley:       Cuts through the mountain passes which were formed by a geological fault. Vegetation: large trees

These features determine and limit the course of rivers, movement of people, the climate and vegetation.


Where the rivers cut through the mountains we find the centre of the Hartbeespoort area – Gateway of Hartbeespoort


The centre point


Water colour sketch of the Magaliesberg seen from the south west painted by Charles Bell in 1835. It is clear that one displaced part of the mountain drew the attention of Bell. This was later called “Kosmos” – the jewel in the centre of a necklace.

Markers in the landscape are the displaced Kosmos mountain and the dam as centre point.



The opening caused by the displacement of the mountain forms a poort (gateway). The river runs through this pass, bringing water from one landscape to another.
The poort was later called Hartbeespoort and the name became attached to the whole area.


TODAY THE DAM IS IN THE CENTRE – This PLACE attracted PEOPLE since ancient times.

Late Stone Age rock art in Jubilee Cave, Magaliesberg (± 5000 years ago)

Late Stone Age rock art in Jubilee Cave, Magaliesberg (± 5000 years ago)

Iron Age stone ruins near cableway (± 400 years old)

Iron Age stone ruins near cableway (± 400 years old)

People started changing the landscape. In 1923 in Hartbeespoort they built the HATBEESPOORT DAM.

People started changing the landscape. In 1923 in Hartbeespoort they built the HATBEESPOORT DAM.

A unique landscape draws unique people.
People erect structures which sometimes compliment a landscape. Then one has succeeded in creating a unity of man and land with a unique character.More than 28 000 people live in Hartbeespoort. Here are many scientists, scholars, professionals, artists, and entrepreneurs.It is said that this area is the second most popular attraction for visitors after the Waterfront in Cape Town.

Early-on a unique person discovered the potential.
Johan Schoeman, whose farm was inundated by the dam, was quick to see the potential of the changed landscape. Soon after the completion of the dam he laid out the villages Schoemansville, Meerhof and Kosmos. Because of the depression development was slow. Subsistence farmers found a refuge and visitors had picnics here.Hotel Agnes of Schoemansville is in the foreground. On Kosmos mountain its name is laid out with white stones.Schoeman turned his attention to another potential. He proceeded to acquire a fleet of pleasure boats and developed a lucrative tourism business.    


Schoemansville, Meerhof, Kosmos, Ifafi first developed as residential villages. People work in Pretoria and Johannesburg and commute daily between Hartbeespoort and the cities. Hartbeespoort as a whole aquired the character of a residential village.

 Most of the farmers who lost their agricultural lands to the dam cut up the less fertile areas into small holdings. Between 1924 and 1929 many houses were erected on these as rural residences. Many people lived and worked there. This suits the topography of Hartbeespoort, especially now with improved communication technology.      

The industrial area in Brits and the Pelindaba nuclear research facility drew large numbers of scientists and managers in the 1960s. Because of the pleasant surroundings and climate many preferred to live in Hartbeespoort.

The residential character extended over most of the area. Agriculture was mostly limited to the areas west of the dam. As a result there were few job opportunities in Hartbeespoort. Those who did not commute to the cities had to start their own businesses                

Hartbeespoort” appears on road maps. Its position is one of its greatest assets – close to large metros but away from the restless city. The landscape, climate, image, people and position cause it to be an ideal residential area. This is the reason for its existence. The geography of Hartbeespoort limits expansion, consequently it will never become a city

Who wants a city if he can live in a place like this? 


 The total of the landscape-and-manmade-heritage is more than the sum of its parts. This landscape is a divine blessing that we have to preserve with all our means, use sustainably and transfer to our descendants in a better condition.


Till the1980’s the water level of the dam was inconsistent. As a result the shores were shifting and unattractive. The dam divided and even estranged inhabitants around the dam from one another. When the economy blossomed building projects escalated. Schoemansville and Kosmos obtained their own municipalities.

Socially the people who lived to the east and to the west of the dam grew apart.



Most of the buildings around the dam were intended to be homes and home enterprises. There are some office buildings, schools, churches and shops. Before the economic collapse of 2008 a few ill-conceived and extravagant malls, shopping centres and ultra luxury residences were built. Today many of these stand empty. These buildings have a corporate appearance typical of urban areas of any-where else and do not contribute to the character of Hartbeespoort, which had a green landscape and residential flavour. Here is an opportunity rethinking, re-planning and re-use.

Many of the residential developments in security complexes display a poor urban design, such as incorrect orientation sun, and uneconomical, unecological architecture enforcing prescribed styles which ignore local climate. This causes wastage of water and power. Such elements include the prohibition of roof over hangs, solar heaters, solar panels and gutters. Change is desperately needed in such cases.

The upliftment and improvement of informal settlements and low cost housing in a more ecological and sustainable way would make housing more affordable for the inhabitants and living conditions more dignified.

Almost all the local buildings are low-rise and do not require lifts. This should be kept so. Urban densification should be sympathetic towards the environment. Office parks should be preferred to office blocks, cluster housing to blocks of flats, pedestrian shopping streets rather than malls.

The total effect should be that of villages in a girdle of green landscapes. The potential of “rural living” lifestyle has been popular in the area. This should be encouraged as it fits well into the landscape, can make maximum use of new “green” technology and puts a low burden on infrastructure.


The cableway, snake park, bird sanctuary, restaurants, accommodation and holiday resorts are flourishing as tourists destinations. Some are unique and resourceful, adding to the character of the milieu. Unfortunately they are far apart, with unattractive stretches in between. This detracts from a continuous pleasure for the tourist. There is a need for better linked tourism routes or nodes. The proposed system of ferry boats would fulfil these functions by promoting the development of the landing sites into attractive tourist facilities. They would also provide transport between attractions.

Because of the precariousness of pure tourism it does not contribute much value to the region. One should rather encourage eco-tourism which would provide ordinary services to the community.

Some of the heritage sites could be developed like the one at Maropeng. The archaeological site at Toppieshoek is one such site that could offer facilities for research, displays and exhibitions for tourists.

Water sports, mountain biking, races around the dam, hang gliding, para gliding and balloons are popular. The topography lends itself to these. A continuous green girdle connecting the mountains and surrounding the dam could contribute to hiking routes, horse riding and a trim park.

Hartbeespoort has been active on the artistic and cultural scene. Here are filmmakers, painters, sculptors, ceramic artists, musicians and more. We have an annual Arts Festival. Here are drama and art schools. The local schools play a large role in promoting culture. There is a need for a cultural centre, a community centre with room for exhibitions, halls for theatre and concerts, gymnasiums, a museum, lecture rooms, accommodation for clubs, recreational areas and more. Such a community centre should be located centrally around a town square with open air cafés. The square would be used for performances, and

markets for locally produced handiwork. Hartbeespoort needs a Heart.

There are a number of primary and secondary schools but no tertiary education. A water research facility is necessary at a tertiary institution. There is a demand for adult education in the fields of entrepreneurial skills, business management, handcrafts, nature conservation, gardening, agriculture, health and the use of green alternatives. A full university campus might not be ideal.

Some services are adequate. Policing is good but traffic control is lacking. The fire brigade and emergency services are good but have to come a long way.

There is a need for more direct contact between citizens and municipality to encourage co-operation.

Here are several medical and dental practices but no hospital. There are not enough clinics. The retirement villages need frail care facilities.

Because Hartbeespoort is a town not a city a large burden is placed on residents to be economically independent. We find a large concentration of entrepreneurs in every imaginable field. The art of working from home has proven to be excellent and suitable for the region. Modern communication and information technology will foster this trend in future.


The extensive area, topography and disorderly development are inherent problems of the traditional, centralised provision of services. The existing infrastructure is based on old methods and practises. Some structures were built in the 1920s and have deteriorated. The sewerage system east of the dam uses a system of 14 kilometres of pipes and 13 poorly maintained pump stations, resulting in sewage leaks. In the short term many repairs have to be carried out.

However, the latest developments in the provision of ecologically and economically sound services, power supply and distribution should be considered. Rain water, grey water, solar geysers, solar room heating should be actively implemented. Solar power and grid combination promote private initiative and bring about large savings on the grid and supply of electricity.

Using grey water and harvested rain water are not only savings for the user but also lessen the impact on the storm water drainage system and other infrastructure.

Reclamation of waste and prevention of littering can provide employment and savings for all.

Because of the topography the sewage works east of the dam are not merely old fashioned but not suitable at all. Alternatives such as dry toilets, septic tanks and mini sewage works on small holdings should be examined, and also a central system based on gravity which would take sewage to a processing plant below the dam wall.

All these inventions exist and are used successfully in South Africa and other countries. The larger Hartbeespoort region can benefit from this alternative technology. We do not need to invent anything, just put it into practice.


The mountains facilitate east-west movement but impede north-south movement.

The dam is a barrier separating east from west. The existing connecting roads are congested because most of the residents from the extended area commute to the cities. The R511 is used by commuters, heavy cargo carriers, holiday makers and motorbike rallies. There is a need to

build the planned PWV 3 and PWV6 or other through roads to take over most of these functions. This system of road transport would constitute the outer ring for fast and heavy duty bypass traffic. These roads should have few intersections with branches to the outside and the inside of the ring. It would be sensible to connect to the inside ring, internal streets and to integrate with the ferries.

In general roads are in a poor condition as a result of poor construction or a lack of maintenance. The ten traffic lights and a few warning lights use power and are often out of order.

Reactivating the old train track would be a tourist attraction rather than contributing to external connections. A fast train would work better but the population is probably not large enough. A better idea would be to install a narrow gauge tram around the dam. It would use solar power and be slow. It would connect the boat landings, where it would have stations. This tram would be practical and a tourist attraction. It is not a priority yet.

Upgrading Lanseria to an international airport can be a great advantage to the Greater Hartbeespoort area, if the PWV3 is completed and the R512 upgraded. The development of a city around Lanseria would lighten the pressure of development on Hartbeespoort while strengthening its residential and tourism character.

 PROPOSALS to utilise the potential:
Turn disadvantages into assets and create the new Greater Hartbeespoort.


The dam creates a barrier between us and them across the water. By car one has to cross two mountain ranges and drive from one side to the other along tiring roads. A ferry boat system could connect communities so much easier to create the Greater Hartbeespoort. A ferry is a work-horse transporting people and vehicles across the water to connect roads on either side of the dam. Such a Work-horse can at the same time be a tourist attraction. This is then eco-tourism at its best.

Utilisation is the best conservation, so use your heritage

There are three bridges in our area that have fallen into disuse. They could possibly be converted into restaurants with a desirable view or nodes of individualised shops. Historic structures that could be adapted for ecotourism hold much potential. In our region many of them are unique. They could contribute to the character of our heritage, which the stereotyped developments such as shopping malls and franchises fail to do.

In Oberon we find these telescopes of the Leiden observatory. They are not in use. Oberon is another archaeological terrain that could be developed as at Maropeng.

On the mountains around Hartbeespoort are more than ten block houses that were built during the Anglo-Boer War of 1899-1902.


The potential of this landscape, climate, position and the heritage in it, lies mainly in residing, working from home, sport, recreation, culture, education and tourism with the concomitant service industries and limited trade. This is the reason for the existence of Hartbeespoort and in future the foreseen Greater Hartbeespoort. Mining, heavy industries and heavy cargo carriers do not belong here and have no right to be here. Large scale farming, concentrated administration or other activities that provide a reason for the development of other towns and cities can hardly play a role here.


Where the soil is fertile weeds will grow. Where people live in peace crime intrudes.

In times of corrupt government people are inclined to look after their own interests only. Civic pride, responsibility towards the environment and fellow-man also degenerate. Civilization becomes an empty word.

The community suffers.

Because of a lack of consensus about a larger goal and communal plan chaos proliferates…


Guidelines for the utilisation of the huge potential for the sustainable future of the Greater Hartbeespoort.
The information above leads to these ecologically sustainable guidelines for the future planning:1.          LandscapeVegetation, especially trees, are man’s best friend. They improve the micro climate, provide shade and purify the air by removing carbon dioxide. They are aesthetically pleasing, absorb noise and hide unsightly objects.

Integrate the existing nature conservation areas and existing “undeveloped” green areas into a continuous green belt from the Magaliesberg across the Witwatersberg and Skurweberg to the Cradle of Mankind.

Apply the guidelines of the Magaliesberg Biosphere in this area.

Draw up a landscape plan for the whole landscape area, including urban open spaces, roads and sidewalks and manage the landscape accordingly with security, waste removal, nature conservation and nature conservation.

Reinstate natural indigenous vegetation as far as possible to the optimum for the environment. This would be steppe with scattered shady trees and few shrubs.

Only service and emergency motorised vehicles will be allowed in the green area.

Make this green belt accessible for inhabitants and visitors, with entrance control where necessary.


2.          Town planning and urban design

Greater Hartbeespoort should never attempt to become a city in character.

It should rather realise to the maximum its potential as a green belt in which to live and work.

Create a central “Heart of Hartbeespoort” in the form of a park with a town square and community centre in it. The central heart must visually reach across the dam to unite the inhabitants around it. All inhabitants should be able to identify with it.

Create entrance gates with information offices and access control at the entrances from through roads. Entrance gates serve as markers to say: “Welcome in Greater Hartbeespoort. Thank you for obeying our house rules.” Their appearance strengthens the image and character of the residential areas and tourist destinations. They also serve to provide information and security services.

3.      Built up areas
Prevent urban sprawl.Limit new buildings until the approved residential zones are full.Avoid any buildings in agricultural zones or on soils that are a weak foundation.

Encourage “urban living” that is ecologically in balance with nature and largely independent of municipal services.

Apply the guidelines of the Magaliesberg Biosphere to building projects in the whole area.

Increasing the density should be sympathetic to the surroundings and offer office parks instead of blocks, cluster housing rather than blocks of flats, shopping streets rather than malls.

Most of the existing accommodation and destinations for tourists contribute to the unique character of Hartbeespoort.

Here are some nodes of shops and restaurants that are not franchises and have an own character. These places should be emphasized and supported as examples.

In a milieu with high aesthetic value vistas are important. All building should be a maximum 10 m high so that escalators or lifts will be unnecessary.

No building should be allowed closer than 100m from the high water line and no structures more that 3.5 m tall within 200m from the high water mark.

New legislation for energy conservation and the correct orientation for new buildings and building sites should be enforced.

Green technology and rain water harvesting should be made compulsory.

4.        Tourism and terrains for public gatherings, trade and social services
All such terrains should be integrated and connected.Plan for sensible distribution and placement. Plan for extension and support it. Use unoccupied heritage buildings for tourism or social services.There is much unused potential for ecotourism. By utilising this jobs may be created and the heritage saved. This is also true of social services, academic and cultural institutions.

Provide information boards and offices strategically at the entrances to the area.

5.    Services
Maximise the use of new green technology and savings.The topography impedes centralised services. Therefore decentralise services.Change the sewerage system so that pumps are eliminated.

Change the water distribution system by building scattered small reservoirs or tanks to lessen the load on pipes.

Use rain water. Consider the supply of untreated water for hydrants and irrigation.

Install solar systems to supply electricity. Inform the public about how to save energy and use it effectively.

Privatize all services separately and manage them on business principles.

Begin with a nucleus and eventually extend it over municipal boundaries.

6         Connecting Routes
Plan through traffic away from internal traffic. Some of the plans have been made already.Build perimeter ring roads for 120 k.p.h. through traffic and heavy vehicles. They must be landscaped attractively and no advertising billboards, posters or commercial development should be permitted.The middle ring is for 60kph commercial traffic, bus and taxi stops, delivery vehicles and commuters.

The inside ring at 30kph is firstly friendly toward pedestrians and cyclists, then yield signs for pedestrian and bicycle traffic and eventually a prohibition or motor traffic in the nucleus. These roads are landscaped and planted with shad trees. They should be treated aesthetically as part of a beautiful landscape with lovely views. No advertising of any kind will be allowed.

Connecting routes from the perimeter to the centre will extend to the dam and ferries to unite communities around the dam. They will make tourist destinations and spaces for public gatherings accessible. These connecting roads adopt the character and speed limits of the areas through which they pass from the outer ring to the bicycle and pedestrian area in the centre.

The whole centre is bicycle and pedestrian friendly.

Natural traffic calming methods such as winding roads, small roads to discourage large vehicles, steep kerbs to limit vehicles to the roads and more.

T-junctions should be preferred to cross roads.

Large circles or clover leaves replace traffic lights or four way stops.

Traffic control should be stepped up.


This proposal offers proposed principles to be put before the inhabitants of the Greater Hartbeespoort for in principle appproval.

After this a team consisting of an urban planner, city designer, architect, landscape architect, ecologist and engineers should compile a detailed document which will have to be approved and published as a Master Plan.

The inhabitants form a Management Corporation for Greater Hartbeespoort to function like the management committee of a security village.

The inhabitants choose a board of trustees which will find and appoint skilled managers and monitor their progress.

The Management Committee compiles a program and budget for implementing the Master Plan, provide law enforcement, security and all the functions that a town council is supposed to do. Other than town councils who operate by forbidding and impeding law enforcement. The Management Committee will act as facilitator and apply encouraging measures to engage private initiative to put the Master Plan into practice and improve on it.

Developers have to submit their terrain development and building plans for approval by an Ecological Committee which will judge according to the guidelines of the Master Plan and the Magaliesberg Biosphere.

Building inspectors of the Management Corporation will monitor buiding processes.

Development and management of the landscape and upgrading infrastructure will be important functions of the Management Corporation.

This will be financed from property tax.

Services and maintenance will be separated in the budget and cross subsidising will not be permitted. Private initiative will be involved as far as possible.

Knowledgeable managers will follow business principles.

They are responsible to the inhabitants without interference by politics.


In South Africa Hartbeespoort is known as a unique landscape of remarkable beauty.While this is true the area and its people are being plagued by inefficient municipal management, which is getting out of control country wide.In other municipal areas inhabitants are sometimes resorting to violence in an attempt to find a political solution to this problem. Such actions can possibly solve technical problems on short term but Hartbeespoort is extraordinary in several ways that distinguishes it from nearby areas and verifies its existence:

1.    The area includes the Hartbeespoort dam, a large section of the Magaliesberg Biosphere and the Witwatersberg as well as several private nature conservation areas. The landscape with its fauna and flora are the dominating features. No municipal or provincial authority is able to take care of this area – neither will the newly elected management committee of the Biosphere be able to manage it.

2.    For centuries this singular landscape has been attracting remarkable people who have left behind a rich heritage. In Hartbeespoort a unique culture of life style and work has developed, which is ecologically sustainable. South African municipal authorities are managed along political guidelines which ignore local niceties/subtleties and sustainable potential.

3.    Being situated between cities the area is quite accessible and suitable for living here, working from home, recreation, culture and tourism.

4.    The topography and size of the area are a challenge to traditionally centralised municipal services and the construction of connecting roads. As a result these services are neglected. Modern ecological technology could offer solutions in an own municipality.

5.    A last asset is the pleasant climate.

However, the following challenges need to be addressed:·         The nature areas are fragmented and are managed inefficiently or not at all. – apart from the private nature reserves.·         The dam and difficult road connections divide the communities west and east of the dam.

·         Deficient control or management of development causes the urban sprawl, threatening to engulf and damage the potential and character of the whole area to the detriment of everybody and the environment as a whole.

·         A national road system was planned that would keep through traffic away from residential areas by means of ring roads. These roads have unfortunately not been completed yet.


Proposals to utilize the full potential in a sustainable manner:


·         Utilise the heritage sustainably.

·         Introduce a system of ferries to connect communities and attract tourists.

·         Connect green areas and manage the landscape to become the chief characteristic of the area once more and keep it that way.

·         Create a green “Heart of Hartbeespoort” botanic garden and community centre.

·         Encourage the development of nodes with unique character.

·         Complete the system of ring roads and make residential areas pedestrians and cyclists friendly.

·         Erect gateways at the entrances to the town.

·         Modernise services.

·         Put into operation a management model that is apolitical and functions on business principles.

In this way the strong points of Hartbeespoort and its environment can be maximised, the weak points can be converted into advantages and the tremendous potential can be exploited sustainably.This will be a “Greater Hartbeespoort”, A place of unique character, inhabited and managed by its own people in sustainable First World excellence.






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