The 2017 winter season in the southern hemisphere may be gently yet resolutely winding down in keeping with its own stubborn schedule, and with the process, as always, the emergence of a welcome change towards warmer weather conditions.
However, it will be the end of a wintry chill in 2017 that will be remembered fondly by no less than 700 elderly people and children across South Africa who in the year received a gift of very warm blankets from the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) as a gesture of goodwill in celebrating the Nelson Mandela International Day on July 18.
SAMSA has keenly participated in the global annual event locally to honour the South African statesman since its launch by the United Nations Assembly about a decade ago.
In 2017, once again SAMSA involved its staff in bringing relief to the communities in which it operates through its ‘CHANGE MAKERS’ initiative launched in 2015 to encourage employee voluntarism in community outreach projects.
Through the SAMSA Change Makers initiative, employees of the organization across the country are encouraged to identify communities or segments thereof that may receive assistance to meet needs in their respective regions.
In 2017, rural villages with predominantly elderly people in Qumbu in the Eastern Cape were chosen for the main event and during which some 150 grannies and grandpas were gifted with the warm winter blankets.
The rest of the blankets were shared with communities identified by staff in regions in which the organization operates, from Durban on the Indian through to Saldahna Bay on the west coast.
For the main event, the choice of Qumbu, and precisely the Tsitsa Falls, was partly to align the Corporate Social Investment-driven event with the rest of SAMSA’s maritime sector public awareness campaigns and social development projects currently underway in the Eastern Cape province and whose focus currently is on the O.R Tambo District municipality encompassing Mbizana, Qumbu and Port St Johns.
They encompass marine tourism in two streams, youth skills development and tourism facilities.
SAMSA hosted this year’s International Day of the Seafarer in Mbizana, with Port St Johns also scheduled by the Department of Transport (under which SAMSA falls) as the host for this year’s celebration of the World Maritime Day in the week up to September 28.
Mbizana is the birthplace of the late ANC president, Oliver Reginald Tambo and whose national centennial celebrations are ongoing this year in honour of his immense contribution to South Africa’s liberation struggle.
On July 18, in the neighbhouring town of Qumbu, in honour of yet another liberation stalwart and global statesman, Nelson Mandela; SAMSA hosted no less 150 elderly people, male and female, to present them with warm winter blankets.
According to SAMSA, the Tsitsa Falls on the Tsitsa river was chosen as the venue for the event also partly to indicate an intention to earmark and profile the area’s nature beauty spot for mapping into the country marine tourism development initiatives under the Operation Phakisa (Ocean’s Economy) national campaign launched in 2014.
“The theme this year was “Action against Poverty” in line with the overarching theme of Take Action, Inspire Change and Make every day Mandela Day concept. Interestingly and ironic in a way, was that among the 150 guests, the oldest person was 98 years old and it was the first time she was visiting the Tsitsa Falls !” said SAMSA
The criteria for selecting recipients of the 700 blankets was fairly simple; recipients had to be from previously disadvantage backgrounds, or homeless individuals, orphanages, the elderly (given first preference) or child headed households, or widows and or widowers.
People had fun!
For more pics of the event countrywide, Click Here and stroll down.
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.
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
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.
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.
The 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.
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.