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About Richards Bay

Richards Bay

Richards Bay (AfrikaansRichardsbaai) is a town in KwaZulu-NatalSouth Africa. It is situated on a 30 square kilometre lagoon of the Mhlatuze River, which gives it one of the country's largest harbours.


Richards Bay
Richards Bay
Richards Bay

Richards Bay is located in South Africa
Richards Bay
Richards Bay
 Richards Bay shown within South Africa
Coordinates: 28°48′00″S 32°06′00″E



The town began as a makeshift harbour that was set up by Commodore of the Cape, Sir Frederick Richards during the Anglo-Zulu War of 1879. In 1935 the Richards Bay Game Sanctuary was created to protect the ecology around the lagoon and later by 1943 it expanded into the Richards Bay Park. The town was laid-out on the shores of the lagoon in 1954 and proclaimed a town in 1969. In 1976 Richards Bay harbour was converted into a deep waterharbour with railway and an oil/gas pipeline linking the port to Johannesburg.

The South African Government decided in 1965 to build a deep­sea harbour at Richards Bay, about 180 kilometres north of Durban. Construction work began in 1972 and four years later, on 1 April 1976, the new harbour was opened. The residential area of Richards Bay developed north of the harbour. Meerensee, started in 1970, was the first suburb. It was followed by Arboretum in 1975 and Veld­en­Vlei in 1980. All three suburbs catered exclusively for Whites in accordance with the existing laws of apartheid. A township for Blacks was developed at Esikhaweni, fifteen kilometres south of Richards Bay. Residential areas for Indians and people of mixed blood were opened after 1985 west of Veld­en­Vlei. All the suburbs of Richards Bay together (excluding the black township of Esikhaweni) had a population of about 20 000 in 1990.


Catholic history of Richards Bay


The parish priest of Kwambonambi celebrated Mass twice a month in a private home and later, from 1973, in the Meerensee Primary School. There were few Catholics in Richards Bay in the beginning, but their number increased steadily with the development of the town. The parish priest of Empangeni took over the pastoral care of these Catholics after a new road link between Empangeni and Richards Bay had been completed at the end of 1974. He introduced a weekly Mass which was held in the Methodist Church in Meerensee and later in the Primary School in Arboretum. The Diocese of Eshowe had in the meanwhile bought a church­ site in Meerensee. The site was offered to the Nardini Sisters who built a convent and a primary school there in 1977/78. Reg Sommerville, an architect from Empangeni, drew up the plans. O'Connell Brothers, an Empangeni company, began the building operations in June 1977. They finished the first phase within one year so that Archabbot Notker Wolf of St. Ottilien (Germany), who was at that time in South Africa on a visit, could bless the chapel and kindergarten on 12 August 1978. The second phase which involved the construction of a convent, was completed in January 1979. Two Nardini Sisters took up residence in the new convent in February 1979. The convent chapel was used by the Catholic community of Richards Bay for Sunday Mass from June 1978 until August 1986 when the new church in Veld-en-Vlei was opened.

The influx of people to Richards Bay in the early eighties brought about a marked increase in the number of Catholics. This in turn made it necessary to think of building a proper church. Duvenhage and Fischer, architects from Richards Bay, were approached to submit designs. During this planning period, all parishioners were invited to make suggestions for the new Catholic centre. For months the sketches and plans were displayed after Sunday Mass so that everyone could contribute ideas. The Diocese of Eshowe eventually accepted the proposal to build a church together with a hall and a caretaker's flat in Veld ­en ­Vlei because of the central position of this suburb. The turning­ of­ the ­sod service took place on 12 September 1985. LTA Construction, one of the largest building companies in South Africa was awarded the contract. Work was completed in June 1986. Bishop Mansuet Biyase consecrated the new church on 31 August 1986. The patron saint of the church and the parish is St. Francis of Assisi. Attached to the church is a sacristy, a small kitchen and a caretaker's flat. In 1992, another building was added. It contains a meeting room and several classrooms for catechism children. The St. Francis Parish in Richards Bay had about 600 Catholics in 1992.

All the additional buildings were constructed and paid for by Father Pious Paul from a legacy left to him. He gave to the Richards Bay parish a memorial for the benefit of all Catholics in Zululand. After Father Pious there were several priests who ran the parish namely Fathers Alousios, Eugene, Hemmie, Peter Blue, Max and the present incumbent Bheki.

Local Media

  • The Bay Magazine - a glossy community magazine detailing life in and around Richards Bay
  • Bay News Online - an online portal with local news about the area. Driven by community journalism



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