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.

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Interesting pics from Rural Zululand Northern KZN

This man is loyal- Ingwavuma still has no jobs, water or power

This man is loyal- Ingwavuma still has no jobs, water or power

“Not a poacher” writes staff member in Ndumo on broken-down- car in game reserve

Seen In Ingwavuma- place where the tar road ends and the power and water and all the atms are broken

Seen In Ingwavuma- place where the tar road ends and the power and water and all the atms are broken

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If journalists report on rural areas this is what they would write

I have heard calls by political figures for the media to do more reporting in rural areas. I think these are valid requests. The rural don’t have much of a voice. In fact I think most big news stories are based in Jozi.

But I am not sure those in power really want to hear what is happening (or not happening) out in the sticks.

I had a mesmerising day at Ndumo Game Reserve in Northern KwaZulu Natal on Sunday. The views in Ndumo are magnificent and equal or better many beautiful places I have visited in Asia including a Thai rain forest, Borneo and Boracay- a tropical island in the Phillippines. I just wonder why KZN tourism doesn’t market the reserve more. But KZN’s lack of marketing is another story.

It was the end to my day that is the story- the poverty I saw. Just before four o’ clock, I drove out of Ndumo reserve in a happy daze having seen some of the most beautiful views in my life. I am not exaggerating.

I drove on dirt roads through Zulu villages. After driving up and down- yes I was lost again – I kept passing about 5 children who waved at me each time. Eventually, I stopped and gave them my ice-cream container full of rusks. I am forever giving away the food I buy here. These kids raced to the car and then I saw their faces- close up. I didn’t need a medical degree to immediately have recognised malnourishment. Their pigment of their skin was pale, they had sores on their faces and strange eyes.

Now most of the men I saw walking on the roads including the three at the deserted garage where I got petrol (super nervous) were drunk. They had glazed-over eyes and looked high. I wonder what they were drinking ‘cause wine has never made me look so “out of it”.

But no man I saw on the roads looked undernourished or too skinny. But older women and children did. It seems from what I saw the weak lose out on food. It’s kind like Darwinism in action. That’s a guess of mine.

I started to get quite upset. I saw a dog limping – no vets here, and an old woman who was an amputee on crutches looking too thin and frail. I saw kids carrying firewood and water. Locals and NGO workers tell me children do all of the work here- fetching water, collecting firewood and cooking. They even care for weak and sick caregivers. It affects their education and they certainly have no time for homework. Sometimes fetching water keeps them from school and none of the Ndumo communties have running water. The fact that the massive Pongola river and even bigger Jozini dam are less than 80 km away from many communities makes me wonder even more about why there is no water.

Potholes in Jo’burg are a pain but Jozi drivers ain’t seen nothing yet. On roads I drove on today there were potholes I just couldn’t avoid. I swerved to miss two and hit another three.

TUT lecturer Cheryl Ogilvie who has worked in the Ndumo communities for 12 years says many times men go the city to find work but don’t send much money home. She has interviewed 100 women for her PHD research. One told Cheryl her husband had said he was only earning R500 rand and could only send R250 home each month. She gave that lady proof to show her husband was earning R5000- he works for an organisation she is involved with. It seems Cheryl believes small remittances are as common as malnutrition here in Northern KZN: which is as common as traffic in Jo’burg.

I drove out of the magnificent reserve full of unspoilt African beauty and within five minutes I saw children playing in a rubbish dump. Then I realised they weren’t playing, they were searching through garbage for food.

Of the 100 Ndumo women Cheryl interviewed, only the teachers had money- the rest spent an average of R600 rand a month on food or less. Bare in mind the average household from her interviewees had 7 members. One had 44.

“Where are the child care grants and the foster care grants?” I asked Cheryl. “Oh many kids aren’t registered and people don’t have access to that money,” she answered.

What may I ask is the Dept of Social Welfare doing?
Or the Department of Water with its Shemula water plan that provides tap water about once a day to Ndumo communities at -guess- – wait for it -at midnight. Yes, ‘cause that’s the perfect time for watering a vegetable garden.

And I don’t like the Dept of Social Welfare right now: 8000 pensioners have not been paid in Umbombo near Mkuze, KZN. The money is almost a week late. Um, Hmm- Dept of Social Welfare- this is not a surprise- this grant payout happens every month. Now there are probably starving people whose only means of survival is a week late- already.

My research is making me wonder what is the KZN Dept of Social Welfare doing or the Dept of Education (Ndumo schools have pit toilets and a shortage of classrooms and rely on rain water and there has been a drought) and as for whoever is supposed to fix roads???

Do politicians really want more news on rural areas? My day started beautifully- literally- but after a drive through poverty, I was very shaken and ate my dinner and soaked in my bath with a grateful but heavy, guilty heart.

Unspoilt beauty

Unspoilt beauty



Nyamithi pan

Nyamithi pan

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Empty stomachs, Happy teachers -Local teacher training at Ndumo Game Reserve

“One of the saddest things I have seen,” says TUT lecturer Cheryl Ogilvy, “is about 14 hungry children fighting over scraps of food in a bucket when food for them at an Ndumo school ran out.” While these children went hungry, I saw teachers eating the school food and looking after themselves.

“The KwaZulu Natal Department of Education supplies R2,50 per child per day for food,” says Moses, one of the Ndumo teachers attending Tshwane University of Technology’s training here at Ndumo Game Reserve. ( I think it is closer to five rand).
Money is not supplied for teacher’s food because teachers are paid salaries.

I am attending TUT’s training day with 32 local teachers from about 25 nearby schools. The area is impoverished. The schools have no electricity, no water and few resources. Many don’t have enough classrooms for the students. There are not many textbooks at some, despite funding for them. All these problems were raised by teachers in yesterday’s training.

One of the teachers at the workshop said teaching staff eat school food to show the students that the food is good. Sometimes women at the school need to cook for 1000 students and the food is not tasty or even edible. Cheryl mentions she has seen children secretly throwing food away because it tastes terrible. And these are hungry children Cheryl is talking about. “The children only get fruit once or twice it month,” say the teachers.

Aside: I looked at the KZN Dept of Education menu last night. Children are supposed to get fruit 2 or 3 times a week.

“And the apples are rotten,” say two teachers in unison. There’s a lot of nodding and agreement.

One teacher starts talking: “We eat the food each day to show the children it is edible.”.

“Can’t one teacher do that?” asks Cheryl . “Why do 30 staff at a school teachers need to eat the students’ meals?” she adds. The room of 27 teachers is noisy as some disagree with her.

“But you have salaries,” says Cheryl. “You can pack a lunch for school.”
“No,” say some teachers- “we eat school lunches.”

“But,” adds teacher Moses, “the KZN Dept. of Education does not provide lunch money or food for teachers.”

Some of the 30 teachers don’t seem to care. They seem to feel the food is theirs to eat. Many, including Moses, disagree. For that I am glad.

But for the other few, I am disgusted. How can well paid teachers, who are Sandton millionaires in this community, steal from the children’s R2,50 or even R5 lunches?

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How to stop poaching

Quotes from my post:
When children say the rat ate their homework- they are not lying. Shirley – teacher at local Ndumo primary school
I have been fighting with the Education department for water and toilets at schools for ten years- Cheryl Ogilvy Tshwane University of Tshwane

The story started like most of mine- getting lost. I thought Ndumo Game Reserve was where Tembe Game Reserve was. After being lost for an hour and ignoring my GPS because it has been wrong out here- I realised my little two-doored car had to brave dirt roads of note

I made it to the middle of nowhere without a tyre puncture. I was praying,

Here at Ndumo Game reserve I didn’t see any animals but I eventually found the Educational Centre full of local teachers in a workshop with Tshwane University of Technology’s ( TUT) Cheryl Ogilvy. Ogilvy is an environmental educator. She trains rural teachers and children how to look after the environment in partnership with Ezemvelo KZN wildlife. The 12 year-long initiative was designed to stop chronic poaching by desperately poor communities at Ndumo game reserve.
Two rural children who were participants in the training are now studying at TUT to become game rangers themselves. This is amazing- this place has no water, no power, no tar roads, nothing.

When I arrived at the training workshop, the 27 teachers were discussing problems at Ndumo schools in a large Rondaval with typical game reserve thatch roof. And then I recognised one: I worked at rural school about 40 km from Ndumo, 11 years ago when I was a naïve 17 year old. One of the teachers Sicelo, who worked there back in 1999, came to the workshop today. Wow- I never thought I would reunite with a person whose name I had forgotten, whose number I don’t know and who doesn’t have Facebook or an address. People here live on tribal land on a hill, behind a bush next to cattle. I am not being patronising- that’s how it is.

After an incredible reunionn I listened to the problems learners and teachers face:

No water at schools (agreed to be number one problem by all 27 teachers). The temperature can reach 44 degrees centigrade in summer. It is 26 degrees today in May- Autumn.
Not enough classrooms. On Shirley’s first day as a teacher (she’s from Gauteng)- she asked where her classroom was. Teachers pointed to under a tree.
Orphans- half a classroom full of hungry children
Rape- “Silence” said Shirley. When I discover that 12 year-olds in my class are pregnant, it is often their brother or uncle who is the father. It is from the way they sleep – all squashed into one hut.
No libraries – Shirley says children can’t take books home because when they say a rat ate my book/homework, they are not lying. There aren’t books anyway.
Long walks to school in the heat.
No textbooks
Lack of nutrition

Shirley is a vivacious bright woman who met her long-term partner at a TUT training workshop in Ndumo. She speaks Southern Sotho and comes from Sebokeng in Gauteng. But she works in Zululand to “make an impact”. She describes how children come to her desperate for water, thirsty but sometimes there is none- They are sent on a long walk home without water. She feels like crying.

“I have been fighting with the Government for toilets and water for ten years” says Ogilvy who keeps trying to improve the schools.

Here in Ndumo, her team teach local children about the environment and taking care of it. The children are taught about snakes, birds and insects. They are trained that owls do not mean witchcraft but actually eat harmful mice. They are shown behind the fences to see what is actually in the game reserve taking away the mystery of “the place behind barbed wire”. The children see Nyala, Impala, Wildebeest, Rhino, Giraffe and rare water birds for the first time in their lives.
They are taught to be clean and pick up litter and apparently their schools are clean.

And some are given E’pap- yes everybody in KZN is mad about the fortified porridge
E’pap is “miraculous” says Shirley. “I have seen miracles, I have seen miracles”
I now give up- I don’t a day without meeting someone who talks about how e’Pap stops malnutrition. I don’t ever ask about it- they volunteer the info.
Ogilvy has raised money to distribute e’Pap to orphans and weighs those children on it. Trials show the children pick up weight, their sores disappear and their skin glows. She has been successful with raising some money to give E’pap to starving kids but her fight for water at schools is a lost battle.

Cheryl ends today’s training workshop asking teachers to write letters to the Dept of Education about their schools. Cheryl tells me, “When I speak to the Minister of Education about how there is no water and no toilets at these schools- He asks for proof. Now I have proof: I will take the letters. Maybe they will throw them away but we’ll keep writing.”

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Why taking the Anthony Sampson grant was a good idea ;-)

Umbombo mountains near Mkuze

Umbombo mountains

Umbombo mountains

View from Overwin guesthouse

View from Overwin guesthouse

no words to describe the beauty

no words to describe the beauty

Door to my room at Overwin Country Lodge

Door to my room at Overwin Country Lodge

Dawn Irons runs Overwin lodge and an orphanage and wakes up at four thirty to quilt.

Dawn Irons runs Overwin lodge and an orphanage and wakes up at four thirty to quilt.

On the Umbombo mountain road to Bethesda hospital

On the Umbombo mountain road to Bethesda hospital

Why driving fast is not a good idea

Why driving fast is not a good idea

All potholes suddenly fixed. Local elections perhaps?

All potholes suddenly fixed. Local elections perhaps?

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Checkmate- Well done Kate you’ve taken our King

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

Having watched the Royal Wedding from the time I woke up this morning, along with millions of others, it is fitting to blog about it.

The title of this blog post comes from a banner people in the crowd were carrying from The Mall to Buckingham Palace. Checkmate indeed. 

These are the things -besides the dress- that I loved about the wedding

The millions from around the world who watched it. Even the BBC website crashed from too much traffic:

CNN’s Piers Morgan tweeted about how the Royal family was now popular again. 

piersmorgan One over-riding thought watching this magnificent occasion: The British Monarchy is BACK. #biggeststarsintheworld

I think it is ironic that a commoner has brought back the glamour and mystique to the British royal family.

The tweets:

 “KevinMcCallum RT @toadmeister: RT @paulwaugh: Good job Kate’s not in France. Wouldn’t she get arrested for wearing that veil?”

 khayadlanga  “I think they should have cut out the “for poorer” bit. He’ll always be rich for goodness sakes #RoyalWedding

 khayadlanga “Ok, the Bishop’s hat wins. He beats out every woman’s hat in terms of hat size. #RoyalWedding

 khayadlanga“Love wins. #RoyalWedding” 

(It’s referring to the controverisal book of that name.)

 BaileySchneider “I think it’s hilarious that some of the royal family arrive in Jaguars and the rest of the royal family in …..buses!”

NadiaNeophytou  “Lots of ladies I spoke to were very interested in when it’s going to be Prince Harry’s turn…#Royalwedding

ferialhaffajee “How to write about serious stuff like elections and xenophobia when I’m a ball of post-wedding schmaltz?”

City Press’s editor Ferial Haffajee had it down- I couldn’t do much after spending hours watching all that fairy tale romance- it felt like yet another public holiday.

The hats:

I counted (it’s still the wedding night as I write this) 16 Facebook pages dedicated to/mocking Princess Beatrice’s Wedding Hat, if you can call it that. Honestly, most of the ‘hats‘ were hideous and many look liked props from a Sci Fi movie.

The prayer:

I love Kate’s and William’s prayer. It is profound. They want to remember what is important in life-quite something for people surrounded by glamour, wealth and privilege. They want to use their partnership to comfort others. It is beautful and selfless and lovely.

God our Father, we thank you for our families; for the love that we share and for the joy of our marriage. In the busyness of each day keep our eyes fixed on what is real and important in life and help us to be generous with our time and love and energy. Strengthened by our union help us to serve and comfort those who suffer. We ask this in the Spirit of Jesus Christ. Amen.”

Comments on air:

A man interviewed by a BBC reporter asked: “Why would I wake up early for the wedding? Is there a ball involved?”

I didn’t like:

All the Royal Wedding haters in South Africa saying it had nothing to do with us and moaning about colonisers. Rather complain when our President’s daughter has 12 lamborginis at her wedding or when we pay President Jacob Zuma’s four wives’ lifestyles. Leave the Royals abroad alone.

I also didn’t like: SAFM’s 6 and 7 o’clock news bulletins that didn’t include anything on the Royal wedding. Their lead story was about some horse disease. Look, I know the Duchess of Cornwall Camilla looks horsy but I think SAFM missed the big story of the day!

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Easter on Good Friday- silly post

Jenna and the ugly window in the background

My sister only wanted healthy stuff for Easter- ha ha -Check out her supply

Disclaimer: this is not a post about News or rural KZN but about a frivolous family day that included Pickled Fish, Gammon, 2 bottles of wine and 2 Easter Egg hunts. 

Today Jenna my brother’s wife was initiated into the Child family Easter Egg hunts. Even though us four Child children are adults – my sister is the youngest at 20- we still look for eggs in the garden. We moved our hunt to Good Friday ’cause Jenna and Dave are away on Easter.  I think Jenna enjoyed it despite the oddness of five adults running around our tiny garden looking for eggs in the five bushes that actually manage to fit into it.

My sister Sarah has been so excited about the hunt and has kept reminding us about her healthy Easter full of dried fruit and biltong. Above she poses with her collection of Easter treats with nothing healthy included. Don’t tell Patrick Holford who authored the diet she “is following”! 

In the pic below we all pose with our eggs and pained faces while my parents take many pics. It was a good day with a great Church service reminding us why we celebrate Easter. Not eggs. Jesus died so we can know God and love him and be loved by him.

All in all everything has been good today except for sitting through an hour of Noot for Noot that my mother decided to watch by choice. (I am staying at parent’s house in the lounge so can’t escape the TV.)  Some things I just don’t understand. Noot for Noot is one of them. Happy Easter peeps!

We are not too old for Easter Egg hunts.
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God’s weekend

Tomorrow is Good Friday – a day I always remember feeling confused as a kid. It was a day we ate – and still do – eat Pickled Fish as some kind of Family tradition passed down from my grandfather who wasn’t Catholic or Coloured. And therefore had no reason to expect Pickled Fish on Good Friday but nevertheless.

Good Friday was ‘Good’, so when I was young I thought I should be happy but apparently not.

My dad seemed to think we were supposed to be sad cause Jesus our God was dead. So here’s this public holiday ( no school) with this yummy lunch and Hot Cross Buns and I was supposed to be miserable. ‘Cause Jesus had  died –  but he wasn’t dead anymore anyway. Confussssing.

I was glad when Easter arrived cause then we all agreed we could be happy so I was no longer confused and I got Easter Eggs.

As an adult it’s less perplexing, although last year Eugene Terreblanche died and I worked harder on Easter than any day before in the newsroom.  I was so busy I forgot to pay my rent and got a rude note from my landlords threatening to evict me. Not much of an Easter. I did keep the Easter Eggs I got for the landlords and ate them myself.

Then Deputy Health minister Molefi Sefularo died on Easter Monday in a car accident and thanks to some Tow Truck drivers or paramedics, gruesome pics were brought back to the newsroom by the reporter.  Not much of an Easter Monday.

This year it’s Two Oceans Madness watching my dad finish his tenth Two Oceans (the real long version) on Easter Saturday and finally getting his permanent number that he has wanted for so long. It’s like a life milestone for him.  Although a friend’s son has suggested easier ways to get a permanent number (think Polsmoor and the 28s). It will be a celebration a day before Easter, although my dad will be limping.

I am also going to read Mail and Guardian’s Religion edition which is always popular. I wonder why newspapers and online sites are so devoid of religion in this country. The news is completely secular despite a very religious population and the success of the M&G religion edition newspaper every Easter Weekend.

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ICD investigates a lot more than makes the press

In my short year as a journalist last year -I called the Independent Complaints Directorate quite a few times- spokespeople Moses Dlamini and Tiyani Sambo were very helpful and always got back to me.  As media spokespeople go, you don’t get much better than them.

I called the ICD often because police brutality is not that uncommon an occurrence.

In service delivery protests in March last year, two protesters were killed in Lebohang, Mpumalanga by police.  One was killed in the protest, another was killed by police rubber bullets when the funeral of the first man turned into a demonstration. I never reported on it cause the radio station I worked at didn’t cover many stories from Mpumalanga.  But the ICD’s Dlamini confirmed to me that the unit was investigating two deaths caused by police action in Lebohang.

Then one Saturday night in December, Terror-accused Henry Okah‘s wife phoned the newsroom saying police had raided her house in Turfontein. She said they had assaulted her tenants- killing one of them. He was a quiet Nigerian, she said. Police that raided the house were investigating drug dealing. The cops were also camouflaged which makes me wonder how quiet and respectable Okah’s tenants really were.

The ICD investigated the death of the Nigerian that Okah said had died by being dunked into a bath full of water while handcuffed. However the autopsy was inconclusive and so the ICD said toxicology reports needed to be done (blood tests for drugs and the like) . Toxicology reports would take another 3 years, said Dlamini, due to laboratory backup – leaving the police under investigation off the hook. The 3 year waiting list is because there is only one forensic lab servicing 5 provinces- Gauteng, North West, Limpopo, Mpumalanga and the Free State.

Andries Tatane’s death is tragic but it is the tip of the iceberg when it comes to police brutality. Zapiro’s was brilliant- as usual- when he wrote on his cartoon“Shoot to Kill” or “Shoot the Boer”– which song should be prosecuted?

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