A community chance for a truce with hippos and crocs in KwaZulu Natal

 SAMSA and Department of Transport kickstart an initiative to assist Enkovukeni Community in KwaZulu Natal with water transport in a symbolic gesture associating with the spirit of Nelson Mandela International Day 

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Enkovukeni village youths have to wade through deep waters of a crocodile and hippo infested river daily just to make it to school.

Pretoria: Friday 19 August 2016

(Please note that this article has been updated to correct place names and geo-location of Enkovukeni)

Forever wading through deep waters to cross a river while constantly having to negotiate inherently pointless truces with feisty hippos and hostile crocodiles could soon be a thing of the past for the community of Enkovukeni  in KwaZulu-Natal.

This could be as soon as next month (September 2016), ahead of the summer rains, when an initiative by the Department of Transport (DoT) and the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) and other Maritime partners to alleviate the plight of the community hopefully gets underway.

Ekuvukeni community members risking their lives trying to cross the hippo and crocodile infested Wasbank River
Enkovukeni community members risking their lives trying to cross the a hippo and crocodile infested river.

Central to the initiative conceived this year as a symbol to mark the Nelson Mandela International Day, is the enhancement of general safety and security of the community through provision of water transport for use in navigating a crocodile and hippo infested river adjacent the village.

SAMSA and the DoT said they had secured cooperation with various partners in the private sector to contribute to the initiative called The Umhlab’uyalingana Outreach project, to provide water transport and related resources to the community, and the parties were currently seeking actively to also involve other Government Departments in order to expand and maximize resources to assist the community.

This effectively altered plans to launch the community initiative on Saturday, August 20 as initially planned.

According to SAMSA and the DoT this week, the initiative to render assistance with water transport was decided upon following to news reports that depicted apparently calamitous living conditions facing the Umhlab’uyalingana community emanating largely from dangers associated with its unavoidable use of the Wasbank River.

“The initiative was initially proposed as a Nelson Mandela International Day project in recognition of former president Nelson Mandela’s birthday on 18 July.  This year, official Mandela Day activities centred around four key areas, namely literacy and education, food security, shelter and infrastructure as well as the environment.

“The community of Enkovukeni has multiple needs and some of them fall within the DoT and SAMSA’s broad areas of operation. The community was profiled as being cut out by a crocodile and hippo infested river from the rest of the community. There is no bridge to cross the river, leaving the community with having to swim across it and face all the attendant risks.

“(But) apart from the basic need for access, the community has other needs that range from food security to basic water safety. The above are the reasons that this community was chosen as a beneficiary,” said SAMSA.

logo1The DoT agency responsible for the country’s maritime safety and environmental integrity added that engagements were currently underway with other Government Departments through the DoT to ensure the initiative had maximum impact.

The idea is to mobilise stakeholders to partner with the DoT and SAMSA in bringing immediate relief to the community by donating boats and other water safety means to cross the crocodile and hippo infested river; mobilise for the donation of basic supplies; create synergies with other partners and stakeholders to bring long term and sustainable relief to the community of Ekuvukeni particularly means of leveraging the tourism potential of the area; and empower the community to develop long term projects that will ensure that basic services are delivered, said SAMSA.

According to SAMSA acting CEO, Mr Sobantu Tilayi the expansion of the initiative followed to needs assessments made with community representatives.

“There is a need for interdepartmental responses into the challenges faced by the community. It is key for us to bring the private and public sector together to focus in on the area and provide the infrastructure required for their lives to be uplifted. We will continue to monitor the progress of the work we have started and in September during the launch, the fruits of this public-private partnership will be realised. An intergovernmental task team will also be engaged to provide the much needed support,” he said.

IMG_0651 (2)Meanwhile, private sector partners confirmed so far according to SAMSA and the DoT include Dormac, Subtech, Smith Amandla Marine, Unicorn, SA Shipyards, MIASA, KZN Sharks board, FBI Communications, Viking Lifesaving and Surfing Equipment.

It was reported that the KZN Sharks Board had allocated two student groups, who this week started with the building of the boats.

The report quoted KZN Sharks Board Education Project Specialist, Vincent Zulu as saying: “We are using an old hull. We will add the rails, compartments, the seating area, steering, and built in oars. The boat would be able to seat 12 people. There are crocodiles and hippos in this dam, and during the raining season water is deep, which means the people have to walk around to find a shallow area to cross the river. The boat would be able to manoeuvre in deep areas and the risk of people being attacked would be minimised.”

As part of the initiative, the board’s Maritime Excellence Centre would also conduct a one week long SAMSA accredited skipper’s course to teach the community how to handle the boats and to help advance their aquaculture skills.

End

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