Lephalale (formerly Ellisras) is a coal mining town in the Limpopo province of South Africa immediately east of the Waterberg Coalfield. The town was established as Ellisras in 1960 and named after Patrick Ellis and Piet Erasmus who settled on a farm there in the 1930s. In 2002, Ellisras was renamed Lephalale by the provincial government of Limpopo, after the main river that crosses the municipality. Lephalale is divided into three main subsections, Ellisras, Onverwacht and Marapong. Lephalale is derived from the setswana language meaning “to flow”.
1550 to 1750
Late Iron Age cattle posts belonging to the Letsibogo ceramic facies have been found in the area. Some rock engravings at Nelsonkop have been recorded.
The name Ellisras origins from a combination of the surnames of Patric Ellis and Piet Erasmus who settled in the 1930s on the farm Waterkloof 502LQ. Since the opening of the main route between Vaalwater and Stockpoort during 1929 a railway bus stop developed on the farm. The central function of the newly established nodes became more evident and other facilities such as schools, churches and shops were established on the farm. Subdivision of the farm started and due to the specific locality of the river, all newly created portions have a river frontage which had a definite influence on the urban form/shape of Ellisras today.
In 1941, the Geological Survey Division of the then Department of Mining, launched an exploration programme. Iscor, the country’s largest steel producer, and also the biggest consumer of coking coal, actively participated in this programme.
Drilling was completed in 1952. In 1957, Iscor obtained the surface rights to six farms, including Grootegeluk.
The first townships that were proclaimed in Ellisras were: Ellisras (Proper) – 7 December 1960 Ellisras Extension 1–5 May 1965 Ellisras Extension 2–3 November 1971
A major influence on the growth of the farm Waterkloof 502LQ was the decision of Iscor in 1973 to continue with the development of the Grootegeluk Coal Mine. Work commenced in December 1974 on building the mine and one year later in December 1975, the actual quarrying of the mine commenced.
Grootegeluk mine was officially opened on 15 April 1981. On 3 March 1982 this mine was in full operation for the first time.
Mokolo Dam (previously known as the Hans Strijdom Dam) was constructed in 1979-1980 on the Mokolo River, near Lephalale. The Malmanie River and the Bulspruit River, two tributaries of the Mokolo, also enter the dam from its left side. The dam mainly serves municipal and industrial purposes.
Since Iscor became part of Ellisras, Eskom also decided to extend its interest to Ellisras seeing that the steam coal produced is suitable for use in power stations and is used for the generation of steam. It happened by a decision by Eskom to build the air-cooled Matimba Power Station in close vicinity of the Iscor coal mine. Construction of the power station commenced in April 1981 and the first phase became operational shortly thereafter. Matimba was officially opened on 17 November 1989. Full municipal status was granted to Ellisras on 1 July 1986 by means of Administrator’s notice 35 of 1986.
The D’nyala Nature Reserve was the site for peace talks between Nobel Peace Prize winner F. W. de Klerk and Cyril Ramaphosa before the democratic transformation in South Africa. D’nyala is referred to as the original “bosberaad” (or bush conference) centre, based on the fact that it was used for hosting high level cabinet meetings of the former apartheid-government of South Africa prior to the first democratic elections of 1994. At the beginning of his presidency in 1989, former President F. W. de Klerk took his entire cabinet, plus a group of officials and advisors, to D’nyala for a two-day “bosberaad”.
This conference involved discussions about policy development and strategies for change within the old South Africa. On 2 February 1990, a mere two months after this first bush conference, De Klerk announced the coming release of hundreds of political prisoners, including Nelson Mandela, and the legalization of black liberation organizations that had been outlawed for 30 years. He also proclaimed his then government’s willingness to end apartheid and to negotiate a new constitution to the benefit of all South Africans.
Over the next four years De Klerk returned to the D’nyala seven more times with various officials in order to work out solutions for crises that arose during the negotiation processes. In December 1992 and January 1993, for example, government officials and members of the African National Congress (ANC) met at D’nyala for two more bush conferences. It was after these meetings that the government and the ANC began formally working on the new constitution that would lead to South Africa’s first democratic elections in April 1994.
The name of Ellisras town was changed to Lephalale during 2002.
Lephalale is situated between 23°30′ and 24°00′ south latitude and 27°30′ and 28°00′ east longitude and the town is positioned west of the Mokolo river, a tributary to the Limpopo river, 820 meters above sea level.
In Lephalale, the summers are long, hot, and partly cloudy and the winters are short, cool, dry, and clear. Over the course of the year, the temperature typically varies from 7 °C to 32 °C and is rarely below 4 °C or above 36 °C.
Based on the beach/pool score, the best times of year to visit Lephalale for hot-weather activities are from early February to mid April and from early September to early November.
The economy of Lephalale is dominated by mining, electricity production, tourism, agriculture and game farming.