Formerly known as Umlazi mission reserve, Umlazi became a place of contention when in the early 1940s government considered Umlazi as a relocation point for Cato Manor residents. The reasoning behind this was because of its proximity to the south of the area and, initially, the land was unoccupied therefore they could resettle there.
The residents of Umlazi reserve mission, together with the Advisory Board, were surprised by this idea, and eventually, in the Cape Town Parliament, it was announced that the people of Umlazi had approved that the mission reserve should be converted into a township. This prompted the mission community to take action. Delegates from Umlazi were sent to Cape Town to represent the Umlazi residents to former South African Prime Minister Jan Smuts, and the whole issue was left pending. The delegation consisted of CCW Nxumalo, Rev Alphaeus Hamilton Zulu, Rev Siveshe, Gideon Mthembu, Bob Nzimande, H.P. Ngwenya, Z.E. Maphumulo, and Chief Albert Luthuli.
Umlazi Township is the only township in the country that has its own registration plate, which is NUZ. Umlazi is divided into 26 sections, A through to Z, with the exception of I,O and X, but with an addition of AA, BB, and CC. Legend has it that Umlazi comes from “umlaza”, the Zulu word for the sour acid produced from fermented or sour milk. It is believed that when King Shaka was passing through the area, he refused to drink from a local river claiming it had the taste of “umlaza”. The area was called Umlazi after this incident.