Zebediela

The name is derived from that of a local Ndebele chief, nicknamed Sibitiele”.

Mookopong (Naboomspruit) is the junction for an 84km railway branch line to Zebediela, reputedly to have been the largest citrus estate in the world, 30km southeast of Mokopane (Potgietersrus).

The originator of this estate of 600 000 trees was W H Gilfillan. He managed to persuade the well-known financier I W Schlesinger to take over the farm, dividing it into 2ha plots and successfully marketing a profit sharing co-operative citrus growing scheme to the general public. The scheme proved particularly attractive to retired army officers, and by 1921 most had been sold. Houses sprang up in the new Zebediela Township, the great citrus groves were planted, and the first fruit was picked in 1926. Two years later, the branch railway from Mookopong (Naboomspruit) was opened to carry the harvest on its journey to all parts of the world. Other farms have been added to the estate. The rainfall of 630mm a year is not enough to sustain the trees and most of the additional water needed comes from boreholes. About 70% of Zebediela’s citrus fruit was of export quality.

The estate was taken over by the South African government in 1974, to be run by the Lebowa Development Corporation, later called the Northern Province Development Corporation.

About 15km south of Mookopong (Naboomspruit) is the Nylsvlei Nature Reserve (3000ha) along the banks of the Nyl River offering excellent bird watching.

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