The marooned community of Enkovukeni at Umhlab’uyalingana in northern KwaZulu-Natal is finally breathing easy after receiving a total five motorized boats on Monday, handed over to the Inkosi Tembe by the Deputy Minister of Transport, Ms Sindisiwe Chikunga.
The boats – all ready to be operated by newly trained skippers from the community who were previously unemployed youths – are a product of a joint initiative between the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) supported by the Department of Transport (DoT) and private sector companies, among them shipping group, Amsol as well as the KwaZulu-Natal Sharks Board.
Transport Department Deputy Minister, Ms Sindisiwe Chikunga (in black outfit) and some senior government officials at provincial and local government level in KwaZulu-Natal, as well as SAMSA acting CEO, Mr Sobantu Tilayi on board a boat donated by private sector companies to the water-locked community of Enkovukeni at Umhlabuyalingana on the north coast of KwaZulu Natal on Friday
It’s a joint initiative that began as the Enkovukeni Outreach Project three years ago as a gesture of goodwill in the spirit of the Nelson Mandela International Day, sparked by an outcry from the Enkovukeni community after it was trapped for months, unable to move, following heavy rains that swell waterways that make up part of the Isimangaliso Wetlands Park that is a World Heritage Site in the northern parts of KwaZulu-Natal.
The first of the five boats (in pictures above) was handed to the community in 2016, followed a while later by another, donated by the KwaZulu-Natal provincial Department of Education.
Private sector partners, Amsol on hand to witness the handover of boats to Enkovukeni Community in 2018
On Monday afternoon during a very wet rainy day – and a day ahead of Tuesday’s reopening of schools towards which children from the about 250 households that make up the village have to daily wade through waist deep water – the community was handed over the last three of the five boats that are intended to assist it with water transport while broader efforts are continuing to establish the feasibility of erecting a permanent bridge in the area.
According to Ms Chikunga at the ceremony on Monday, the building of a permanent bridge across the estuary would be an ideal solution but this would require extensive consultations among several government departments and other affected or interested entities.
From a financial perspective she said, current estimates indicated that it would be a highly expensive exercise largely due to the character of the landscape of the area.
She urged the community to actively engage in the exercise in two ways; first by ensuring it was represented in tasks teams shouldered with responsibility for the feasibility studies, but also in embarking on entrepreneurial initiatives that will financial support pursuit of its aspirations.
“These boats that we are handing over to you today, are not Government or anyone else’s property but your property as a community and which you must protect and preserve as best you can in your own interest. But in addition, you must find ways in which you will raise funds to maintain them with fuel as well as all other necessary repairs,” she said.
For a full address by Ms Chikunga, click on the video below.
Deputy Minister of Transport, Sindisiwe Chikunga hands over blankets and more boats to Enkovukeni community in KwaZulu Natal
Meanwhile, as part of the Nelson Mandela International Day celebration that begun on Sunday this week, Ms Chikunga handed the elderly in the area with blankets as well as dozens of pairs of shoes for school going children.
A South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) initiative, supported and driven by the Department of Transport, to alleviate the plight of a northern KwaZulu-Natal community forever swamped in water, has moved yet another significant step forward after eight (8) new boat skipper trainees completed their training in Durban recently.
All eight skipper trainees – four males and four females – are from the community of Enkovukeni, at Umhlab’uyalingana and all successfully went through a rigorous training programme at the KwaZulu-Natal Sharks Board Maritime Centre of Excellence in Durban a week ago.
The training, conducted by the KwaZulu-Natal Sharks Board along with SAMSA, is part of a now much broader community initiative launched about three months ago to initially provide water based transport to the Enkovukeni community, a village situated on a thin 5km waterlogged stretch piece of land forming part of the Isimangaliso Wetland Park – South Africa’s first world heritage – in the north of KwaZulu-Natal.
Enkovukeni, at Mhlabauyalingana, is practically an island, stretching from Bhanga Neck to Kosi Bay Mouth with the Indian Ocean on one side and the Kosi Bay lake system on the other. The area is virtually only accessible by foot or make shift canoes which residents currently use.
The initiative is part of the Umhlabuyalingana Outreach Project which was initially proposed as a Nelson Mandela International Day project by SAMSA, the latter which drew a partnership with other stakeholders to accelerate delivery of services and bring immediate and long term relief to the community.
Private sector partners now supporting SAMSA and the Department of Transport include Dormac, Subtech, Smith Amandla Marine, Unicorn, SA Shipyards, MIASA, KZN Sharks board, FBI Communications, Viking Lifesaving and Surfing Equipment.
The newly trained boat skippers, all previously unemployed youths from the community will once formally licensed, be charged with responsibility for manning and managing the boats to be deployed with the community, said SAMSA Curriculum Development Specialist, Mr Mzwamandla Sosibo.
Mr Sosibo and KwaZulu-Natal Sharks Board Education Project Specialist, Mr Vincent Zulu who oversaw the training, were on hand in Durban last Friday to see the group return home after its training.
Mr Sosibo said SAMSA was pleased that significant progress was being achieved with the initiative, but precisely with regards water based transport for the community as this remained the main challenge to address all other problems. For his full remarks Click Here:
Meanwhile, Mr Zulu said the Enkovukeni initiative constituted an example of the nature of beneficiation communities across the country could elicit from the national Operation Phakisa (Ocean Economy) initiative launched in 2014.
Of the eight skipper trainees, he said they had an equal obligation to ensure that contribution made to their Enkovukeni community fully benefitted everyone and that projects initiated were jealously guarded and fully supported by the community for long term sustainability. For Mr Zulu’s full remarks, Click Here
Meanwhile, the eight boat skipper trainees said they were “absolutely elated” to have been included in the programme and vowed to give it their all to ensure the programme is sustainable.
For their remarks (averaging one minute each), please Click the pictures below
Initiative to alleviate community plight now a Presidential Project – Deputy Minister of Transport
Pretoria: 11 September 2016
After wading through crocodile, hippopotamus and rhinoceros infested waters for decades – more than five centuries by one account – the community of Enkovukeni, a small village patched on a forested hill surrounded by deep lakes waters on the one side, and the pulsating waves of the Indian Ocean on the other, at Umhlabuyalingana on the north coast of KwaZulu-Natal, might soon have a bridge at last.
That is if the South African government which has taken focus of the area fully for the first time, can negotiate a few treacherous corners inclusive of international conventions governing the management of the country’s first ever World Heritage Site; the Isimangaliso Wetlands Park in which the village is tightly locked in.
On Friday, Deputy Minister of Transport, Ms Sindisiwe Chikunga accompanied by members of top management of the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA), a group of private sector representatives and provincial and local government officials in KwaZulu-Natal; met the villagers with their traditional leader, Inkosi Tembe and she gave an undertaking that national government would look into the plight of the community.
They told her in unison, without a second thought; they wanted a bridge, along with a ‘two-lane’ road.
The desperate request is based on the fact that an only entrance by a vehicle into the area – stopping short of a kilometer to the village, on the banks of an oft swollen lake – is a three to five kilometer long single-lane shifting sand pit barely two meters wide, running rugged through a thicket on which only off-road vehicles are able successfully to grind.
Folklore has it that a few locals who’d ever managed to buy a vehicle, any type of vehicle; have never ever been able to take it home. Boating on the heritage site lakes is also apparently highly regulated.
On Friday, Ms Chikunga however described it as a bizarre situation that should not obtain still in the new South Africa, and committed that government would fully investigate the possibility of constructing a bridge across some part of the lake in order to provide more secure and safe mobility for the community.
But that will partly require working past a basket of international conventions along with domestic laws, rules and regulations governing the management of the Isimangaliso World Heritage Site.
Information on the park’s website states that the iSimangaliso Wetland Park was listed as South Africa’s first World Heritage Site in December 1999 “in recognition of its superlative natural beauty and unique global values.”
It states: “The 332 000 hectare Park contains three major lake systems, eight interlinking ecosystems, 700 year old fishing traditions, most of South Africa’s remaining swamp forests, Africa’s largest estuarine system, 526 bird species and 25 000 year-old vegetated coastal dunes – among the highest in the world. The name iSimangaliso means miracle and wonder, which aptly describes this unique place.”
The deputy Minister’s visit of the area on Friday was the second since August 14, 2016; following to an initiative by the Pretoria headquartered South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) together with private sector partners in the Durban region’s maritime sector to assist the Enkovukeni community with mainly water based transport.
According to SAMSA acting CEO, Mr Sobantu Tilayi, the initiative was sparked by a news report earlier this year that depicted the living conditions of the community as dire due to an almost complete lack of not only transport, but anything else to enhance its life to a level others in surrounding areas generally take for granted.
As part of its community outreach programme under the annual Nelson Mandela International Day (2016), the authority mobilized support for help among some private sector companies that could lend a hand, in the form of boats that could be donated,.
To date a handful agreed, among them the KwaZulu-Natal Sharks Board, shipping group Smit-Amandla Marine, Dormac, Subtech, Unicorn, SA Shipyards, MIASA, FBI Communications, Viking Lifesaving and Surfing Equipment FBI Communications and some others.
The event Friday was to both hand over the first of possibly two or three boats the community would be donated with in order just to be safe enough for day to day travel, including school children who have to cross the lake daily to attend school, the sick who need medical help and the elderly who have to collect their social grants.
It was also for government at all three tiers to consult further with the community on how best it could be further assisted.
Ms Chikunga announced that government had taken serious note of the situation such that it was now being undertaken as a Presidential Project under the direct control of President Jacob Zuma.
Mobilization, she said; had begun by the Department of Transport (under her directive) to involve and engage fully no less than seven other national departments – Public Works; Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Basic Education, Local Government and Traditional Affairs, Small Business, Trade and Industry, Energy Affairs, and Arts and Culture; but also the KwaZulu-Natal provincial government in efforts to focus their attention to action to alleviate the plight of the Enkovukeni community.
“When I visited the area for the first time on 14 August 2016, and held talks with Inkosi Tembe and some members of the community, I promised I would be back with a progress report. Today, I am back not only with a report back, but also with tools and equipment intended to alleviate the plight of this community. The boats are not a total solution, but are a start.
“As promised, I have since taken your situation to the Office of the President with a proposal that this situation be undertaken as a Presidential Project, and he has agreed. The next step proposed is the establishment of an inter-Ministerial Task team involving deputy Ministers of the respective departments in order that we package a comprehensive programme that will deliver on the issues requiring address.
“The Director General in the Office of the President is currently arranging for the first of such meetings,” she said.
Ms Chikunga said the involvement of as many national government departments as was possible was a necessity to ensure that as many challenges facing the community as possible were noted and where possible addressed holistically as soon as possible.
These included skills development for especially fishermen, small business development in particularly tourism as well as aspects related to arts and culture.
In addition, housing assistance and electrification, school nutrition and related matters, land management and general development needed specific and urgent attention, she said.
Ms Chikunga promised to return to the village within the next few weeks to deliver shoes to school going children (estimated at about 150) as well as certain basic necessities to families.
To listen fully to Ms Chikunga’s address (mainly in isiZulu), as well as the rest of the officials and community members, please click on the audio clips and video links provided below. The clips are in order of the programme as presented on Friday.