Ingwavuma – where locals are outnumbered. Chinese in Africa

I bought my double adapter from a Pakistani in rural Zululand this morning. Spar didn’t have any.

I am not sure how and why foreigners manage to create self employment in an impoverished area of 90 000 (plus another 110 000 estimated Mozambicans and Swazis). Aside – I got the figures from my hosts who are long time residents in Ingwavuma.

Of course the Pakistani shopkeeper didn’t have a debit/ credit card machine because my guess is his shop and he are not registered, so I needed R25 cash. This itself posed a big problem as all three ATMs in the town are not working. They weren’t working two months ago when I was here, so that hasn’t changed.
R25 rand seemed a lot for a double adapter, especially in such an impoverished area.

Before I sound xenophobic talking about the Pakistani and his high prices and lack of debit card facilities, I am told the foreigners that are more of an economic burden on Ingwavuma are the Swazis and Mozambicans.

There is no running water here, which is odd as Ingwavuma is about 80 km from the massive Jozini dam. Apparently, one of the reasons says long time resident Maryna Heese is that the Ingwavuma pumps were designed to pump water up the mountains for 90 000 people. There are an estimated extra 110 000 people who are now here from nearby Mozambique and Swaziland adding to the demands. (Chris, resident and teacher of 7 years says the municipality is also useless and has refused to fix broken water pumps for the past 8 months.)

Heese says the Mozambicans and Swazis come to Ingwavuma for “almost free health care, better schools and Fake IDs”. Heese, wife of the medical superintendent at Ingwavuma’s Mosveld hospital, says she knows plenty and plenty of Swazis with fake South African documents and a few Mozambicans too.

When I asked, “What’s new in Ingwavuma?” two nights ago as I was last here in Feb, I was told by her and her husband that the influx of Swazis and Mozambicans in the past two months had been tremendous.

All of sudden there is crime in the town – shop and home robberies. The Heeses had all seven power tools stolen from their garage while they were at home. The Chinese shop was robbed on a recent public holiday. It was one of the only shops open.

Now, I am not saying Ingwavuma’s sudden and unusual spate of crime and robberies are because of a sudden influx of foreigners. The Heese’s, who have been here for 20 years, just mentioned that the two events have occurred simultaneously. Unlike when was here last- I am told to lock my room when I go out.

Anyway, it seems that if you are Chinese, Pakistani, Swazi or Mozambican, coming to live in Ingwavuma ain’t a problem. You can open a shop and cell overpriced, poor quality electronic goods (Pakistani) or sell cheap plastics and clothes (Chinese) or get cheap medical attention (Mozambicans/Swazis).

However, if you are a foreign doctor it is not so easy to work in Ingwavuma at the hospital. Ingwavuma’s Mosveld hospital is often short of two or three doctors at a time and foreign doctors fill the gap. Superintendent of Mosveld Hospital Dr Daniel Heese agrees that the foreign doctors make much needed contribution.

I am interviewing a Canadian doctor later today, Mary. It took her almost a year to get a visa to come and work at Mosveld hospital.

Medical recruitment NGO African Health Professionals (AHP) eventually had to step in and help her get the required documentation. It took them six months as the KZN Dept of Health was less than helpful, according to AHP founder Tracy Hudson.

Hudson was hugely critical of how difficult the KZN Health Dept. makes it for the organisation to recruit foreign doctors for unfilled rural posts. Hudson says she ran AHP for six years and recruited hundreds and hundreds of medical staff for poorly-staffed hospitals but fought the KZN Health Dept. all the way. She stepped down last year to take a break because the uphill the Health Dept gave her for just got too much.

I enjoyed interviewing her. She is a lovely, graceful woman who at the time was very excited to head off to India for the Cricket World Cup with her husband ex-SA cricketer Andrew Hudson. But man was she scathing about the KZN Health Dept.!

Perhaps it would have been easier if she provided the documents needed for the Swazis, Mozambicans, Pakistanis and Chinese in Ingwavuma and didn’t worry so much about recruiting much-needed medical staff from England, Canada and Europe.


About Kat child

I am a journalist (big smile: I love saying that) and a coffee lover. I believe journalism should tell untold stories and give a voice to the voiceless. I love Cape Town, the beach, cheese, chocolate and Origin's cappucinos. I don't see the point of making one's bed and I wear odd socks.
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