While physical exploration in the Drakensberg can be rewarding, solving its scholarly enigmas can be more so. In collusion with Professor David Ambrose at the National University of Lesotho, I uncovered a significant naming aberration for a significant Drakensberg peak. The name in question is incongruously called “Mafadi”, a label that was actually misappropriated to the highest peak in South Africa from an already named peak inside Lesotho. While the peak itself is indeed the highest, and always has been, it lacked a name until the Directorate of Surveys and Mapping, Government of South Africa, 2929AB Champagne Castle 1:50 000 map of 1971 was published and indicated the new name of the highest peak as “Mafadi”  (at 11,306’ - 3446m). This was the first time the name appeared on an RSA publication.

However, the name Mafadi originates from the original Basutoland colonial series 1:50 000 topographical map produced in 1961 (called Makheka 2929AB: RSA equivalent is Champagne Castle). The name is derived logically from geographic descriptors: It is common to name a peak for the river from whose mountain source it springs which is true in this case, and furthermore, Mafadi in Sesotho means “those audible from a distance” as the river contains rapids and a waterfall 6 meters high that plunge off the mountain, creating a faraway noise. Furthermore, there is a host of South African sources verifying the Lesotho origins of Mafadi in their 1940’s and 1950’s accounts on top of the Drakensberg. In short, it makes complete sense that this Lesotho peak is called Mafadi.

Unfortunately the same cannot be said of the current South African “Mafadi” which has no namesake river, no waterfalls, nor noise eminences associated with it. Most Drakensberg peaks have very transparent and recorded cultures, histories and geographic identities associated with them. “Mafadi” is truly a glaring exception. It gets worse. The actual questionnaire completed in 1969 that was used to name “Mafadi” was sent to me (see download link in this website) explaining that the origins of “Mafadi” are “mother of Fadi”. So the highest peak in South Africa is accorded to be the mother of someone named Fadi (!) By the same logic one would call the former President of SA “Mandela” because he is the “mother of Ndela”. This appears to be a spurious work of cartography that carries no connotations or linkages to this particular peak. There once was a peak in need of a name and “Mafadi” was grabbed and erroneously explained by expediency. It is hard to understand the machinations behind this.

Fortunately there is a definitive name more suitable, found on the Lesotho map assigned in 1982, for the “Mafadi” of South Africa, but called Ntheledi, meaning “make me slip”. It is suggested that this comes from the stream flowing northwards off its summit (to join the Injasuti River), offering a difficult descent from the Escarpment.

“Mafadi” is of dubious derivation for SA’s highest and should be changed, possibly to Ntheledi, a verifiable name, and not remain a borrowed or contrived label. This is a laughing stock matter for a significant piece of landscape and one which should be accounted for. See the 4 page download link and attachment in this website for a complete exposition and let the facts speak for themselves.

The method to change names lies with the South African Geographical Names Council Database whose website link is:


and contact is:

Kingsley Centre, 481 Church Street, Cnr Beatrix and Church Street, Arcadia, Pretoria
Private Bag X897, Pretoria, 0001
Tel 012 441 3679

The South African Geographical Names Council Act of 1998 is also attached.

To change South African history and make its highest peak nomenclaturally correct and relevant would be a great Drakensberg accomplishment, particularly if there is a groundswell of approval behind it. To this end I hope to initiate a “Mafadi” Awakening and restore at least a small piece of logic and reason to a mountain range full of myths, mystiques, inventions and plain inaccuracies. Suggestions and feedback are encouraged to rectify this mapping misjudgement.

This article is a summary of a more detailed, formal thesis, which can be downloaded here.

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Slingsby2's Avatar
Slingsby2 replied to: #53203 10 Mar 2012 14:54
Thomas - sorry, I came across this after I had made my other post. Your suggested "Ntheledi" seems pretty valid to me.
However, don't be too hard on the mapmakers. We produced the original Drakensberg series in the midst of a plethora of "correcting", esp. Zulu names - the outcry we had for calling the Tugela the Thuleka is a case in point. I recently mapped the Wild Coast. Not only do the rural villages [kraals] move from time to time, they have different names depending upon whether you live in them, or from which direction you are looking at them. It's interesting that the posts on this page don't agree on the spelling of Injasuthi/Injisuthi etc etc .... In the MCSA [Cape Town] there are still warring factions over "Kasteelpoort" vs "Kasteelspoort". Cartographers often just can't win!
ghaznavid's Avatar
ghaznavid replied to: #3531 04 Aug 2011 10:02
Good old Injisuthi Dome, I think its another peak in the general area that is disputable as a khulu, after exams (and some physical verification in terms of the relevant auditing standards ;) ) I will get back to you on what peak I am thinking of...
intrepid's Avatar
intrepid replied to: #3527 04 Aug 2011 09:25
The issue of who ultimately decides what a peak is called has come up recently too with the Mount Mandela issue. There is a government document addressing this, at least in part, which I'll put up on the site sometime. But whatever the legal processes are, a very big consideration is what all stakeholders - "the Berg community" - think, and that everyone has their say. While complete consensus is not always realistic, I don't think contentious issues should ever be pushed through. And that very often depends on the motives. The Mount Mandela proposal did not resonate well within the Berg community and I think that should be respected and heeded. It would be foolish to push this further.

The proposal to rename Mafadi does not have any ulterior motives that I can see, other than to set the record straight. I don't find the name Mafadi offensive, but then again to have the origins of the name of our highest summit be officially recorded as "the mother of Fadi" is very unfortunate! I think it very important that people have their say on this. This includes our little online community here, clubs such as the MCSA and others who contribute and have a keen interest in the Berg, KZN Wildlife, relevant historians / cultural experts, communities living in the Central & Northern Berg etc.

@thomas: I have made a copy of the file publicly accessible at this link:

@ghaznavid/Popple: I think what constitutes a correct name is consensus and recognition. Personally I'm content with colloquial names for unnamed things in the Berg and not whether they are officially recognised. The process is too much of a mission for each and every thing. It would be great to get an officially recognised list of SA's top 10 peaks, but even that process could take a long time.
PS: I'm relieved faith has been restored in Injasuthi Dome! Its a pretty valid Khulu me thinks, not just on scientific terms, but also on historic terms (it has a name and was once thought to be SA's highest).
ghaznavid's Avatar
ghaznavid replied to: #3375 25 Jul 2011 16:34
Personally, working in auditing, I'm very used to making a note of names being slightly wrong (if a company called Cathedral Peak 112 (Pty) Ltd has Cathedral Peak 113 (Pty) Ltd on an invoice, SARS can disallow the VAT and tax deduction of the amount, so it is actually an issue), so I can identify with such issue.

I agree that names are definately important, especially when talking about the highest point in a country. But what exactly constitutes a "correct name", eg Grimm's Castle at Garden Castle (my icon on this forum), it is officially an unnamed rock feature (hence me wanting a form to get its name officially recognised), its name comes from a discussion on this forum, does this make it an incorrect name?
thomas's Avatar
thomas replied to: #3370 25 Jul 2011 11:21
I am happy to engage forum participants on this “Mafadi” topic and appreciate any contributions to the debate, such as ghaznavid’s. I do recognize that the naming controversy you have mentioned is a particular can of worms (or a welcoming opportunity depending on point of view), especially in Africa and certainly in RSA after 1994 given all the renaming done up and down the continent. It might be natural to extrapolate the “Mafadi” naming dispute to all naming issues around us were they all the same but I would hesitate to conflate intent and results into the same bag as it is certainly a varied bunch.

1. The colonial and apartheid legacies left us names which for better or worse did marginalize the powerless and oppressed with ruling nomenclature designed to rule and overpower. Naming restitution for the silenced voices and labels is not something I would disagree with. But “Mafadi” does not belong in this unsavoury category.
2. The colonial legacy that left us with Drakensberg peak names that no local tribes could conceive of or invent because they had their own names seems somewhat tendentious but not necessarily malicious and surely there are enough peaks aplenty to assign all sorts of names to regardless of their tribal, national or racial origins. There seem to be plenty of Zulu, Sesotho, Xhosa, Griqua, Afrikaans, English, Scottish, et al names all along the Berg to create a wonderful panapoly of colourful descriptors and namesakes. Exclusion of one over the other is not something I would agree with, however. “Mafadi” does not belong in this category either.
3. Some peaks are erroneously but innocently named – got the geography wrong – or simply misinformed and proceeded to name in good faith. “Mafadi” does not belong here as well.

“Mafadi” is a special case, namely due to its prominence as RSA’s highest and therefore should be subject to serious scrutiny. Furthermore, it would appear to have a clear conception of how it got its name, or at least a very strong conjecture, as documented in the report. It is not entirely innocent, in my opinion, since the name was not invented but readily available on another peak to ‘grab’; the name is incongruous with its current peak; and the source of the name as written on the Directorate of Surveys questionnaire is almost ludicrous for a peak (“mother of Fadi”).

I have made a clear case for renaming that is apolitical, non-threatening, unambiguous, not serving special interests and anyone has the option to do likewise for any namesake in RSA and make a case for if, in my opinion, similar benevolent motives are at stake. To reconstruct history for the sake of truth is a long way from renaming for personal aggrandizement or subversive ends and has no place certainly in this dialogue. Unfortunately naming has not always been so innocuous. I would hope that renaming “Mafadi” would simply be an issue in itself and remain there.

The link to the form for submission from the SA Govt Services website was not working for me either which is why I included the contact information should anyone be able to collect the form and post for us to complete. I would certainly like to do so but am far from Pretoria.

NB: To gain a wider appreciation of “Mafadi” beyond VE members would require the document to be able to be googled, but having to log on to the VE website prevents that exposure. Is there a way it can be on VE but also external to logging on, Intrepid?
ghaznavid's Avatar
ghaznavid replied to: #3368 24 Jul 2011 18:38
I personally don't think that peaks should be renamed based on historical errors, where would it end? Suddenly we name Cathedral Peak - Mponjwane and Mponjwane - Cathedral, Giants Castle and Garden Castle reverse their names, suddenly we have to rename half the KZN Wildlife reserves as Garden Castle and Giant's Castle (although technically Giant's Catle is in Lotheni, and, ironically enough, Lotheni Peak is in Giant's Castle)...

@Intrepid: Can't remember why I had Injisuthi Dome on "dodgy khulu status" (I think it was based on someones comments on an earlier forum), its more than 1km from Mafadi, has 6 contour lines between it and Mafadi, but anyway (I write this comment after writing about a page on the peak before convincing myself that my arguement was wrong!)...
intrepid's Avatar
intrepid replied to: #3367 24 Jul 2011 17:46
@ghaznavid: it appears you have to go to the South African Geographical Names Council or your provincial geographical names council to obtain an application form. I'll happily engage you on a chat about Injasuthi Dome, if you could just please create a new topic for that. I don't want to detract from the importance of the topic on this particular thread.

To the Berg community: how does everyone feel about renaming, if the motives are in the interests of accuracy (not politics, as in the case of the recent Mount Mandela proposal)? Is it worth renaming peaks if they have been erroneously named, or is it enough to let the truth be known and acknowledged?
ghaznavid's Avatar
ghaznavid replied to: #3351 21 Jul 2011 06:10
i always enjoy a good story of naming errors, but there are so many of them in the berg, eg giant's castle v garden castle, cathedral peak v mponjwane etc. The part that concerns me is the classification of the injisuthi dome as a khulu, based on how close it is to mafadi and the not significant height difference i feel it should be de-khulu-fied! I do like ntelede as a name for mafadi though.

The article does answer a previous question of mine though, the naming of rock formations, rivers and peaks. I went onto the website shown in the article, but the form itself doesn't appear to be downloadable, does anyone know how to get the form?
intrepid's Avatar
intrepid replied to: #3348 20 Jul 2011 08:25
Thanks Thomas for sharing this research. Some interesting facts indeed.

What does everyone else think of this? What of the proposal to have Mafadi renamed to something like Ntheledi? Some responses here would be great.