"Umzinto" is said to be derived from the Zulu "umenzi wezinto", meaning "the kraal [or place] of accomplishment".
Unofficially, Umzinto was at one time the capital of Alexandra County, a district that also includes the areas and suburbs surrounding the towns of Scottburgh, Umkomaas, and Sezela-Pennington. Umzinto hosted two class-A cricket matches at the Alexandra Memorial Ground, one on 2 March 1974, when Natal B hosted Griqualand West in the Currie Cup Section B, and again on 19 March 1977, when Natal B faced Border in the same contest.
According to an urban legend, the town's name derived from a visit by two men, one of whom was named Um. On encountering a stream, the men decided to cross it but Um did not notice the crocodile lurking beneath the surface. Subsequently, Um was attacked by the crocodile, and bitten in half. "Um's in two!" his friend exclaimed. The legend has been ascribed to Jonathan Swift but Swift died in 1745, decades before the British encountered the region.
Today, Umzinto remains a semi-urban town, with not much progress compared to its neighbouring town of Scottburgh. This is due to the Group Areas Act of the previous Apartheid era. It was once the home of three large textile mills, namely Alitex, Bally Spinning Mills and MYM Textiles that used to export abroad. Today only one survives and is not as productive as it used to be. Consequently, this has affected the economy of Umzinto negatively.
Umzinto also houses a Darul-Uloom called Madrassa Da'watul Haq that has produced many graduates who have memorised the entire Quraan.
The municipality has not maintained the roads and currently the roads are in a deplorable condition. In 1995, low cost housing was developed on the outskirts called Gandhi Nagar.
Religions: Islam, Hindu, Christian, Shembe
Schools: Umzinto Vale, Umzinto Secondary School, Umzinto Islamic School, Roseville Secondary, St Francis Primary
Halls: Sanathan Hall, Islamic Cultural Centre, Umzinto Town Hall
Pioneers of Umzinto include the Somaru, Ramdin & Radhalal, Phillip Naidoo, Mansoor, Dawoods, Govender, Ally, Singh, Karim, Khan, Moosa and Kadwa families. The sugar cane fields on the outskirts of Umzinto are owned and run by Crookes Brothers, a JSE listed company.
Until halfway through the 1980s, Umzinto was the southern terminus of the Umzinto - Donnybrook narrow gauge railway and had transshipment facilities to a Cape gauge branch line to Kelso, along the railway from Port Shepstone to Durban.
Today Driving through the main road, one will find old buildings and businesses as early as the 1900s. Taking the old Esperanza Road, one will find the Archibalds bakery which is now run by Albany.