Wednesday, February 08, 2006

In the Shadow of the Mountain - Special Assignment

To some, Bergville, the gateway to the Drakensberg, is synonymous with dagga. It’s one of the top dagga producers of the world and the informal economy of the area is based on the sale of it.

The play “Bergville Stories” tells of the fateful day in the 1950’s, when police raided the dagga fields. They were set upon by furious Amangwane tribesmen and five policemen were killed. 22 tribesmen were sentenced to death and hanged on the same morning. It’s said that from that time one, Bergville fell off the map.

Playwright Duma ka Ndlovu: “Party because of this incident, development never came to Bergville, so the inhabitants were left on their own to fend for themselves…they went to the mountains to grow more dagga…”

On Tuesday, Special Assignment travels to Bergville and examines the lack of development in this IFP heartland. In the eighties, the area was a flash point when people were forcibly removed to make way for Woodstock Dam. The Nkosi of the Amangwane, Tshanibezwe Hlongwane, was sent into exile by the KwaZulu Homeland Government for leading the violent protests.

78-yr old elder Hlela Mlambo remembers: “He caused a lot of pain to the Amangwane…a King is meant to ensure that war does not reach his people…he lost the throne because he did not stop it”. Bizarrely, Nkosi Tshanibezwe died on the day he was reinstated as leader of the Amangwane by the ANC Government in 2002. Last year, his son, Menzi Hlongwane, took over as head of the traditional authority. He’s young, hip, and always in the company of a group of even younger friends, which raises eyebrows.

“He is too young and confused. He needs to surround himself by wise men who know about our culture to strengthen his kingdom”, says a disapproving elder.
He may be considered young and confused, but 24-yr-old Nkosi Menzi Hlongwane has no qualms about speaking out about why this area is amongst the most underdeveloped in the country. “Politics in this area brings tears to my eyes…to everyone’s eyes! Look at this valley – there are only 4 toilets that have been delivered by the Municipality. So people shit in the river and soon we’ll all have cholera. And those 4 toilets only went to people with IFP membership cards…there’s no progress, no electricity, no water…we drink with the cows!” In the royal kraal, a flashy hi-fi system with powerful speakers also waits patiently for development to come to the Drakensberg.

The young chief isn’t the only one who believes that delivery here is party political. Landowner Josiah Gumede: “The IFP is leading the local government and that’s why we can’t breathe. Local Government is not listening to me. They don’t take my complaints – what must I do??”

IN THE SHADOW OF THE MOUNTAIN, examines local government’s lack of delivery in Okhahlamba, the barrier of spears. It is directed Jessica Pitchford and was filmed by Bryon Taylor, Roy Freeman.

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