Municipality: Maluti A Phofung Municipality
District Municipality: Thabo Mofutsanyane District Municipality
Also see the neighbouring towns
Phuthaditjhaba is a mountain village with a population of about 85'000. It is on the banks of the Elands River, near the Namahadi River. The R712 leads to Harrismith (50Km), and the R57 to Kestell and then Bethlehem on the N5, about 80Km away. There is a dust road off the R57 to the Golden gate Highlands National Park.
Phuthaditjhaba is on the lower peaks of the Maluti Mountains, which are connected to the Drakensberg Mountains in the east. The peak Qua-Qua is 2217m high, and just to the northwest of the town. Mont-aux-Sources (3282m) is to the south, southwest of the Tugela Falls in the Qwa-Qwa Park.
Photo courtesy of Khotso Setai
The majority of the population in the Phuthaditjhaba area are from the Makgolokwe and Batlokwa tribes of the seSotho nation.
Wetsi's Cave is southwest of Phuthaditjhaba in Qwa-Qwa Park, almost on the border with Lesotho.
Photos courtesy of Johan Lindeque
The Sentinel Hiking Trail starts at about 2540m above sea level from around the Witsieshoek area and then onto the Drakensberg plateau of about 3000m high and winds about 10Km towards Mont-aux-Sources (3282m).
Sport: Fishing, Golf
Adventure: Hiking trail, Horse riding
Nature: Bird watching
Culture: Arts and Crafts, Basotho Cultural Village, Matlakeng Herbal Trail, San Rock Artwork
The Golden Gate Highlands National Park is to the west of Phuthaditjhaba.
The Sterkfontein Dam Nature Reserve is off the R712 on the way to Harrismith.
Qwa-Qwa Park is to the south of Phuthaditjhaba and borders the Royal Natal National Park, which is part of the uKhahlamba-Drakensberg Mountains, a World Heritage site. The Fika Patso Dam is in Qwa-Qwa Park, and so is the Tugela Falls.
Chief Wetsi's Cave is near the western border of the park.
Qwa-Qwa Park borders on Lesotho.
The San people were the first known inhabitants of the area. They called the peak Qwa-Qwa, which means whiter than white. It is not certain whether this refers to the peak being snow-capped in winter, or to the white vulture droppings which left white markings on the sandstone.
During Zulu disturbances around 1840, a section of the Makgolokwe tribe under Chief Wetsi fled here. The area was then named by early Europeans after this chief: Witsieshoek (i.e. Wetsi's Glen).
In 1856 Chief Wetsi, joined by the Zulu warriors of King Mpande, the Bapedi of Sekhukhune and others, fought against the invading European Voortrekkers, who were joined by the Bakwena of Mopeli .
Another tribe, the Batlokwa under leadership of Chief Koos Mota settled here in 1873. Today the area is mainly inhabited by the Makgolokwe and Batlokwa tribes.
The official name Witsieskhoek was given when this area became a homeland to the South Sotho people during the apartheid era. It was known by this name until the 1990s when the town regained its old name, Phuthaditjhaba.
In winter the mountains are covered in snow, and in summer there are violent thunderstorms.