Bulawayo Memories - Near Bulawayo Mbalabala (Balla Balla until 1982)

Balla Balla



Balla Balla (Mbalabala)

Mbalabala (Balla Balla until 1982) is a village on the main Beitbridge to Bulawayo road (at the junction with the Filabusi Road) in Matabeleland, Zimbabwe. The name is derived from the Ndebele name for the greater kudu (scientific name: Tragelaphus strepsiceros). It was originally rendered Balla Balla by Europeans, which was altered to its present name in 1982 by the Zimbabwean government in order to coincide closer with the local pronunciation.

Balla Balla was originally known as Filabusi Siding which was established on May 1, 1904, but its name changed in 1907, after a nearby peak of that name. There is, however, some doubt as to whether the original Filabusi Siding was located at the same spot as the present Balla Balla. It is probable that the siding, prior to 1907, was located somewhere between Balla Balla and Stanmore Siding, and it is possible that the two places existed simultaneously for a short time pending the establishment of the new station at Balla Balla.

The village has a railway station on the Beitbridge/Bulawayo Railway and is the railhead for the mining area of Filabusi. The village also hosts a large army barracks, which is the Zimbabwe School of Infantry, formerly Shaw Barracks for the Rhodesian African Rifles from 1976 to 1980. The site was previously St. Stephen's College from February 1959 to December 1975.

Mbalabala is situated on high ground, which forms a ridge between the Mzingwane and Mbilambowe watersheds, in an important cattle ranching area with a history of gold prospecting. There is a prominent landmark nearby in the form of a granite hill (kopje) known as Balloon Kop or "Baldy" - due to its bare rock.

The village is situated on high ground, which forms a ridge between the Umzingwani and Mbilambowe watersheds. A police station was in existence until 1904, and police trooper, J. T. Woods, in addition to his police duties, acted as Government forwarding agent and Postmaster for the district.

A road was constructed from Belingwe to Balla Balla in 1906 via Hibernia Mine with a view to affording a more direct communication between Belingwe and the railway line. There was a coaching service that carried passengers and mails between Balla Balla and Belingwe which took 15 hours between these two centres - a distance of 116 km, but with development of better roads and private transport, the coaches were replaced by motorised vehicles.