Until the coming of democracy, Nelspruit was a small town that functioned mainly as a hub of transport for agricultural products that were transported to metropolitan areas of South Africa. Before this, the town was a point through which people and goods travelled to the Mozambican coast, as part of the Boers’ geopolitical project of independence, which would ensureaccess to the coast without having to rely on the British dominated ports in other parts of the country. Later, it became a point through which local and international tourists would travel to the Kruger National Park, a significant drawcard to the area.

After 1994, the town burgeoned into a city and a crucial point in the Maputo corridor - a route that facilitated growing contact with Mozambique, which was until then a hostile  neighbour opposed to apartheid and a supporter of trade sanctions. Post-1994, trade and exchange with Mozambique were encouraged, and the infrastructure to make this possible was developed.

Over the course of a century the name Nelspruit first referred to a railway siding, then a village, then a town, then a municipality, and is now one of the fastest growing cities in South Africa. As such, the history of Nelspruit is inextricably linked to the history of the region, including the various cities, towns and villages in the vicinity, and in the Eastern Transvaal, now known as the province of Mpumalanga.

But the site of Nelspruit also has a long history even before it was named, and the movements and activities of peoples can be outlined even if these histories have yet to be written and confirmed by oral testimony and archaeological research. Therefore, the prehistory of Nelspruit and Mpumalanga is rich in the plurality of human activities.

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