By Sam Masinga
Enkovukeni, a community that is home to 19 or so families is an island belt located in the far north of KwazuluNatal; just a few kilometres south of the Mozambican border. The most isolated community at the iSimangaliso World Heritage site, resides in a thin 5km wide strip of land. It stretches from north of Bhanga Neck to Kosi Bay Mouth with the Indian Ocean on the east and the Kosi Bay lake system on the west.
It is here that Thonga fish kraals are still found, dating back to the days before Vasco da Gama first sailed past in the late 1400s.Ownership of these fishing traps – unlike any others in the world – is still passed from generation to generation.
We are told that in Enkovukeni there are graves of ancestors of the Ngubane, Mthembu, and Tembe clans dating back 800 years. Various species of trees are used to mark graveyards and some say Enkovukeni should be the crown jewel of the world heritage site, but it’s far from that.
The community currently does not exist in history books and has fallen off the map of development plans. It is a poverty-stricken paradise with no road access and a school that has existed since the early 1900s. Teachers and pupils wade, sometimes waist deep, across a wide section of the estuary each day to get to the school.
It is this type of lifestyle they have called enough after 22 years into their democracy.
The community no longer has interest in participating in any local government elections. Recently Enkovukeni once again made headlines in SA media.
The Deputy Minister once again visited the community to deliver a boat sponsored by the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA).
“Never in my given time on earth have I heard of a place where one could buy a sleek car but keep it in the bush till s/he has traded-it-in without it having touched her/his premises; it is strange,” said the Minister.
“It’s when we felt South African Marine Safety Authority (SAMSA) could quickly come to our rescue with our much needed solution; and they did,” she continued.
But the people of eNkovukeni were not fazed by this. Moses Ngubane, Ellias Sibiya as well as Mama Ngubane all of eNkovukeni supported one another in their messages about what they wanted as a matter of urgency – a permanent bridge structure.
Zakhele Ngubane asked if fishers have a place in the minds of the park authorities where the former do not have parking space, fishing gear storages and change rooms. Lindani Ngubane of Masifundise did not contain himself on behalf of Kosi Bay fishers who are unhappy that the Park draft regulations want to do away with century old fish kraals in Kosi Bay.
Among Chikunga’s promises to Inkosi Mabhudu Tembe and eNkovukeni community she nonetheless said there needed to be some patience when it came to constructing a bridge.
“I need to be afforded an opportunity to organise an inter-ministerial committee which will piece some thoughts together for an eventual and lasting solution,” Chikunga commented
Nonetheless there is one boat already ferrying eNkovukeni community across the lake and it will not be the only boat delivered, even KwaDapha community is in the queue to receive theirs. Yet there is a concern about its operation under the current management of the Park.
The Minister was told that the Roman Catholic Mission at Star of the Sea once made their donation for a boat to ferry eNkovukeni learners to their schools across the lake but they were called to order by the then KwaZulu Bureau of Natural Resources (KBNR).
The community further said that whilst previous resistance to forced removals ought to be celebrated there are still deliberations about the future of eNkovukeni because of possible future removals, in terms of the actions of Park officials.
This feeling was also affirmed by Inkosi Tembe who said that there are surprises afoot about the tug-o-war between the government and the iSimangaliso Authority.
“There is a question about the meaning of the government intervention in the affairs of the Park! The rest has remained for deliberations by powers that be in relations to human rights,” commented Tembe.