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Kruger National Park

Albasini Ruins

Portrait of Joao Albasini

The remains of the 19th century trading post of the famous Portuguese trader, Joao Albasini is found at the new Phabeni Gate, 10 km from Hazyview.

Over the ages trading activity has taken place in the south-eastern region of Africa. Lourenco Marques, now known as Maputo (Mozambique) would have been the starting point (or end point) of many of the ancient trading routes that criss-crossed the countryside. When Albasini arrived in the, then Portuguese occupied, port in the early 1800’s, he began setting up his trading business. He set up a network of trading routes that reached the inland as far as the Lowveld and by 1845 he had established a trading post at Magashula’s Kraal (now known as Albasini Ruins). This trading post was conveniently positioned along two of these ancient trade routes.

It is popular belief that Albasini’s settlement at Magashula’s Kraal was the first European settlement in the disease ridden Lowveld. He only stayed here for a short time and moved to the growing town of Ohrigstad, where he married 18year old Gertina Maria Petronella Janse van Rensburg. Shortly after, they moved to the new town at the foot of the Soutpansberg Mountains, Schoemansdal. Here Albasini established himself on the farm “Goedewensch” which proved to be a very prosperous time him and his family.

In 1858 he was appointed vice-consul of Portugal in the ZAR as well as a superintendent of the Native tribes in and around the Schoemansdal area. His election as vice-consul made it necessary for a postal service to run from Goedewensch to Lourenco Marques every month by a Portuguese soldier, the Boer government was offered the to make use of the opportunity. He remained in service as vice-consul until 1872.

Albasini most probably inherited his adventurous spirit and business sense from his father, who was an ivory trader under the Portuguese flag. When Albasini was 17 years old he accompanied his father on one of his trading journeys to Brazil and Lourenco Marques. According to legend their ship was stranded on the east coast of Africa and Albasini, with the help of his father and his determination began setting up his own trade business. His father left for Lisbon shortly afterwards never again to see his son. Under the difficult conditions of poor trade and threat of the deadly diseases, such as malaria and tsetse fly, Albasini was determined to make a success of his career. He began trading the merchandise his father left him and annually, during the safer winter months, he would take clothes, beads, knives and mirrors along the ancient trade routes into the interior of the sub-continent and exchange them for ivory. He would return laidened, when the dangerous summer months began approaching. This ivory was then traded with visiting ships for ammunition, merchandise and foodstuffs.

Albasini as it is today

On his first trip to the newly established Boer (Afrikaans) town, Ohrigstad, Albasini bought some land from the Kutswe chief Magashula for 22 head of cattle. Here he established his first mentioned trading post. This post was conveniently positioned along two ancient trade routes and offered wonderful opportunities of trade with both the local black people and the Boers. He would transport goods from Lourenco Marques through the tsetse fly area to Magashula’s kraal for the Boers, who would then travel down the escarpment to collect their goods. Albasini also appointed two headmen to run two other posts, one at the foot of Manugukop (just south of Pretoriuskop), which was run by Manugu, after whom the koppie was named. The other was run by Josekhulu near Ship Mountain (along the Voortrekker Road).

Albasini only stayed at Magashula’s Kraal for two years, as he was drawn by the growing settlements on the escarpment. In 1847 he bought a farm outside Ohrigstad and opened a shop there.

Magashula’s Kraal was renowned for its fine white bread, which was made from grain grown at the post

Albasini was born to an Italian father and Spanish mother in Lisbon in May 1813. He enjoyed his childhood with his parents and brother and sister in Lisbon. In 1830 at the age of 17 years he arrived on the East Coast of Africa. He had a strong personality, sharp intellect and determination and due to this he became a personage in the Portuguese Port of Lourenco Marques (Mozambique). He played an important role in establishing this port as the gateway to the seas for the Zuid Afrikanshe Rebuliek (ZAR) and was the first Portuguese to trade with the Boers (Afrikaners) in Ohrigstad.