(Mr Dlingiziwe Ngubane, the leader of the community, sharing a drink of Zulu beer with neighbours)
(By Subry Govender)
During the apartheid era in South Africa - prior to 1994 - most black South Africans lived in villages under the former regime's independent and semi-independent homelands. Today 20 years after the dawn of democracy - these homeland people expected changes in their lives. But for many their lives have not changed much - they are still without the basic essentials - electricity, running water, proper schools. Some high school children have to walk four hours a day to attend schools many kilometres away from their homes. One of my colleagues from Radio Deutsche Welle, Asumpta Lattus, and I visited one of the villages in a remote area of KwaZulu-Natal early in April to get a first hand picture of the lives of rural communities...........
(A villager tending to his cows in the illage of Mtunzini)
Situated in a deep rural area, about 65 kilometres from the city of Pietermaritzburg in the province of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa, is a farming village called Mtunzini.
The village is in a deep valley surrounded by hills and wattle trees. The villagers, made up of 16 families, have been living here for more than 200 years.
Most of them occupy homes made up of rondaval-type mud huts. At least one house is built of brick. Except for a run-down lower primary school, there are no other facilities in this village. They eke out a living by working as labourers on neighbouring white-owned farms.
In order to reach the village, we had to drive the final 20 kilometres on dirt and corrugated road.
(Cows make up the wealth of the community)
My colleague, Asumpta Lattus, and I were met by villagers who appeared to be surprised and puzzled to see us there. When we explained that we represented an international broadcasting company in Germany and wanted to speak to the villagers about whether their lives had changed after 20 years of freedom, they readily welcomed us and agreed for us to visit and talk to one of the nearby families.
(Two women elders of the village at a meeting in the local lower primary school)
Seventy-four-year-old Dlingiziwe Ngubane escorted us to his homestead made up of several mud huts, a little vegetable garden, and chicken and dogs running around. Mr Ngubane introduced us to his 70-year-old wife, Batusile, and then informed us that they had 20 children and grand-children living in their homestead.
Mr Ngubane shared a can of home-made beer with his neighbours and talked about their lives in the local IsiZulu language.
"I was born here and I can recall that my father and grand-father lived here with their families," he told us through an interpreter.
"We all worked as labourers for neighbouring farmers and also cultivated our small pieces of land. When we voted for the first time 20 years ago, we wanted to see changes in our lives. But we still don't have running water and electricity.
"We also don't have security of tenure for our land that we have been staying in for more than 200 years.
"My family members and I are going to vote again on May 7 in the hope that the Government will see our plight and provide us with property rights, electricity and running water."
(Mr Dlingiziwe Ngubane working in his mealie field)
Mr Ngubane said some of the village children who were going to higher primary and high schools had to walk to their schools and back home for about four hours a day.
"My dream for the future is to see my children and grand-children obtaining a decent education so that they could improve their lives and one day become nurses, teachers and doctors.
"We are very simple people but we also have dreams that our children and grand-children will better their lives. I don't want them to be serfs like us."
(Siyabonga Sithole, community activist)
A community activist who has been trying to help the villagers is Siyabonga Sithole. He is associated with the Association for Rural Advancement (or AFRA) that has its offices in the nearby city of Pietermaritzburg. AFRA promotes the rights of farming communities discriminated and marginalised during the apartheid years. He told us that rural communities are the forgotten people of South Africa.
"It's legacy of apartheid because these people have been working for landowners and didn't get paid for it," he said. "They used to get rights may be to crop or keep livestock on their land in return for their labour.So there is no way we can expect more and, therefore, when you look at the house-holds or the environment here you'll see they are struggling.
"We are voting on May 7, the government officials or political parties will come here to get the people to vote showing that there is a road to come here. But when it comes to service delivery, they make all the excuses that it is too far. When it's comes to development it takes too long.
"These people are part of the country, it's unfortunate that they are forgotten when the government plans for the development of the country."
(Colleague Asumpta Lattus filming for her documentary)
When we drove out of the village, we could see that the villagers had hopes that we would highlight their plight so that the authorities could take note of their situation.
(IFP leader Dr Mangosuthu Buthelezi)
Our next stop was to interview the former leader of the old KwaZulu homeland, Dr Mangosuthu Buthelezi, who is the leader of the Inkatha Freedom Party. We managed to obtain an interview with him despite his heavy electioneering schedule. Buthelezi acknowledged that some communities in the rural areas had still not tasted full freedom. He said he supported the expropriation of land so that black farming communities could also uplift their lives.
"It's one of the issues with which the country is seized with at present. It's happening in such a slow pace that some of us think that there should be appropriation because the constitution provides for appropriation with compensation.
"Some political parties are calling for expropriation of land without compensation but my party believes that land could be re-distributed through fair compensation."
He was of the view that much of the neglect of the rural communities was due to corruption in government departments.
"I believe that if we root out the corruption we will be able to deliver to the people in rural areas such essentials as electricity, running water, proper roads, schools and clinics."
(Professor Paulus Zulu)
A prominent academic and author, Professor Paulus Zulu, told us that the slow pace of service delivery in many rural communities was due primarily to the lack of efficiency in government departments.
"We are one of the richest countries in the world and there's not excuse that we cannot deliver essential services to many people in rural communities.
"If we stamp out corruption and inefficiency and improve the quality of education, we would make life better for most people," said Professor Zulu, who is based at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in Durban.
(Senzo Mchunu, Premier of KwaZulu-Natal and leader of the ruling ANC in the province)
The leader of the ruling ANC in the KwaZulu-Natal province is Senzo Mchunu. He is also the Premier of the Province. We caught up with him during a ruling party meeting in Durban. He said since 1994 they had been embarking on various programmes to uplift the lives of rural people. They had also managed to provide essential services to thousands of people in rural communities. But they were mindful of the challenges they still faced.
"We are mindful and very sensitive of the gap that we have to narrow between urban and rural areas which is a fault-line of apartheid," he said.
"Because those areas were neglected with regard to roads, with regard to water, with regard to bridges, with regard to schools, with regard to clinics, with regard to schools, with regard to electricity, all those things.
"We understand the drawbacks of corruption and are doing everything in our power to root out this social evil by targeting officials and others involved in corruption.
"We are a new democracy and we cannot fulfil all the people's dreams in just 20 years. We are doing our best to improve the lives of people by upgrading infrastructure such as roads and rail, education, schools, hospitals and providing opportunities for the poor and disadvantaged."
(Asumpta Lattus with one of the local residents)
The visit to the village of Mtunzini in the KwaZulu-Natal province demonstrates that the plight of black farming communities in the new South Africa after 20 years of freedom is still a cause for concern.
The ruling ANC will have to take appropriate action to fast-track - not only an improvement in their social and economic lives - but also ensure that these communities are given security of tenure on land which they and their ancestors have been occupying for hundreds of years. ends - subry govender
INDIAN-ORIGIN AND COLOURED PEOPLE ARE ALSO PART OF THE BLACK MAJORITYbb
(By Subry Govender)
President Jacob Zuma has taken a swipe at reactionary forces that are trying to sow seeds of division and hate against people of Indian-origin in the country.
The President was addressing thousands of people at the Ammen Awards ceremony of the Shri Mariammen Temple at Mount Edgecombe on Good Friday, April 18.
The Shri Mariammen Temple, which was built by Indian indentured sugar cane labourers after they arrived from 1860 onwards, recoginises community and other leaders every year on Good Friday for their services and contributions to society.
President Zuma arrived at the temple soon after the Deputy President of the ruling ANC, Mr Cyril Ramaphosa, also addressed the people. Mr Ramaphosa departed for another assignment before the arrival of Zuma.
The Minister of Justice, Mr Jeff Radebe, and other ANC officials and leaders were present during Zuma's address.
"In the context of the struggle for freedom, Indian people just like the Coloured people, have always been part of the oppressed black majority," Zuma told the people.
(Minister Jeff Radebe at the Shri Mariammen Temple on Good Friday)
"Therefore, the Indian community has never been mere auxiliaries in the struggle for freedom as may be suggested by some whose sole intention is to divide the black majority for political expediency."
Zuma did not refer to the forces promoting division but it was obvious who he was referring to.
Zuma said the promotion of non-racialism was the strength and uniqueness of South Africa and the ruling ANC.
"We pride ourselves of our track record of non-racialism. It is genuine and is tried and tested. Our non-racialism and in particular the unity of the oppressed, was inevitable, given that during our struggle for liberation, Indians, Coloureds and Africans as black people shared a common fate.
"The liberation of one group was inextricably linked to that of the other."
(The crowd at the Sri Mariammen Temple listening to President Zuma)
Zuma re-assured the people that the Government's post-apartheid policy formulations and perspectives were aimed redressing the inequalities and injustices of the apartheid era.
"When we conceptualize policies such as Affirmative Action, Broad Based Black Economic Empowerment, Employment Equity Act and others, we proceed from the understanding that we need to correct the injustices of the past meted out against Africans, Indians, Coloureds and women.
(Policies to create jobs, overcome poverty and reduce inequality)
"Since the inception of democracy in 1994, we have implemented policies whose main objectives are to create jobs, eliminate poverty and reduce inequality.
"The ANC government will in the next five years relentlessly pursue these policies in order to ensure that our economy truly reflects the demographics of our country.
"While we have made progress on this front, much more remains to be done as indicated by the recent report released by the Commission for Employment Equity which showed that representation of black people in top management positions has only grown from 23.7 percent to 33.2 percent over the last ten years."
The ANC, he said, was the only movement with the necessary "commitment, experience and capacity" to resolve the inequalities in the interest of black people.
Zuma emphasised that the bias towards the Indian-origin, African and Coloured people was not meant to polarize society but was the most decisive intervention "towards redress and social cohesion".
"White compatriots must never feel excluded in this important project of building a non-racial, non-sexist, prosperous and democratic South Africa.
(Value cultural diversity)
"Working together for the past 20 years, we have managed to educate all our people to value diversity rather than see it as a source of division.
"The ANC has succeeded in building a nation with an overarching national identity and which celebrates diverse cultures, religions, sexual orientation, skin colours and ethnic groups.
"In everything we do, we must give practical meaning to the overarching vision of our forebears who developed the Freedom Charter that South Africa belongs to all who live in it, black and white.
"This must be interpreted bearing in mind that blacks include Indians, Coloureds and Africans."
Fellow congregants, We must pray for peace, progress and unity in our country during this Easter.
We must express our gratitude to the Lord for all the successes we have scored, as we mark 20 years of freedom. Working together we have made South Africa a much better place to live in than it was before 1994.
Zuma used the occasion to call on the people to vote on May 7 in memory of leaders such as Nelson Mandela, Yusuf Dadoo, Billy Nair, Dr Monty Naicker, and Albert Luthuli.
(The Deputy President of the ruling ANC and South Africa's Special Envoy to Sri Lanka, Mr Cyril Ramaphosa, speaking at a Hindu Easter Festival in South Africa on Saturday)
(An ANC activist and provincial candidate, Mr Stanley Moonsamy, providing security for Mr Ramaphosa)
(By Subry Govender)
The deputy president of the ruling African National Congress in South Africa, Mr Cyril Ramaphosa, has given a public assurance that they were fully involved in bringing about peace in Sri Lanka.
Mr Ramaphosa, who has been appointed as South Africa's Special Envoy to Sri Lanka, was addressing a public rally of mainly Indian-origin people in the city of Durban on Easter Friday.
He was one of several top political leaders who were invited as guests at the annual Hindu Easter festival of the Shri Mariammen Temple and Cultural Society in the former sugar mill town of Mount Edgecombe.
The other leaders included the Minister of Justice, Mr Jeff Radebe; Mr Obed Bopela, the Deputy Minister for International Affairs in the office of the Presidency; Mr Sisa Njikelana, ANC member of parliament and chairperson of the Solidarity Group for Peace and Justice in Sri Lanka; and Mrs Sally Padaychie, wife of the late former Minister who took a keen interest in the conflict in Sri Lanka.
"We are offering our assistance after the Government of Sri Lanka called on us to help it in bringing about peace," Mr Ramaphosa told the massive crowd who turned up for the festival.
He said South Africa had become involved in Sri Lanka after the President of the island country, Mr Rajapakse, had invited President Jacob Zuma to assist in finding a solution during the Commonwealth Heads of State Conference(CHOGM) in Colombo late last year.
Early this year during his state of the nation address in Parliament in Cape Town, Zuma announced that Mr Ramaphosa would be the country's Special Envoy to Sri Lanka and South Sudan.
South Africa heightened its role in Sri Lanka following the resolution adopted at the United Nations Human Rights Commission Council session in Geneva late last month to appoint an international investigation into the human rights violations in Sri Lanka.
It's estimated that between 70 000 and 100 000 Tamils were slaughtered during the final stages of the war in 2009 and the human rights of violations of Tamils is still continuing in the North and East of Sri Lanka.
Detentions, arrests, rapes and the invasion of Tamil-owned land is taking place on a daily basis and the Rajapakse Government is conducting the colonisation of the North and East with Sinhala people from the south.
"Recently we had discussions with a delegation of the Government of Sri Lanka in Pretoria and soon after that a delegation of the Tamil National Association(TNA) visited us for talks," he said.
"We want to offer the experience we had gained when we entered into negotiations with the former apartheid regime to bring about peace and freedom in our own country. Over the past 20 years we have achieved a great deal in South Africa and we want to offer this experience to Sri Lanka. We believe that they too could engage in negotiations to bring about peace in their country.
"In the final analysis it is up to the all the parties in Sri Lanka to bring about permanent peace in their country," he said.
Mr Ramaphosa, who is poised to become the country's Deputy President after the general elections on May 7, said he would lead a delegation of Government and ANC leaders to Sri Lanka to promote dialogue between the Government, the TNA and other organisations and leaders.
"There has been a lot of bloodshed in Sri Lanka and we want to offer them our help to achieve peace."
President Jacob Zuma, who arrived after Ramaphosa was driven to another engagement, also addressed the people and urged the people to use their democratic right to vote in the forthcoming elections.
According to Tamil scholars, the people of Tamil Nadu and Tamils of Sri Lanka have been celebrating their new year generally on April 14 according to the Gregorian calendar. Similar celebrations are observed in Malaysia, Singapore, Mauritius, and South Africa where Tamils were initially taken as indentured labourers since the early 1800s. Puthaandu is now also celebrated in many other parts of the world where Tamils have settled.
People celebrate the festival with joy and hope that the new year will bring new opportunities and growth in their lives. This day is celebrated by some communities with flowers and raw mangoes to symbolise growth and prosperity.
Leaders and activists in Tamil Nadu, Sri Lanka, and the diaspora have called on the people to remember the suffering of the Tamils of Sri Lanka at this time when the Tamil New Year is being observed.
During the last days of the civil war in 2009, between 70 000 to 100 000 Tamils were slaughtered by Sri Lankan soldiers and this genocide of Tamils in Sri Lanka is continuing with the military occupation and colonisation of the traditional Tamil areas of the North and East of the island country.
Human rights violations of the Tamils have become an every day affair and this state situation led to the United Nations Human Rights Council resolving in Geneva recently to launch a independent investigation into the human rights abuses.
So when we observe Puthaandu, let us all spare a thought for the continued oppression of Tamils in Sri Lanka by the Rajapakse regime.
(Mrs Sally Padaychie, wife of the late Minister Roy Padaychie, with the leader of the TNA delegation, Mr R. Sampathan, and other TNA members and officials of the Solidarity Group for Peace and Justice in Sri Lanka)
(By Subry Govender)
(Mr Krish Govender)
A former struggle and anti-apartheid sports activist has called for the immediate cancellation of the South African cricket tour of Sri Lanka in July in protest against the continued oppression of Tamils in the island country.
This move should be part and parcel of a broader sports boycott and other sanctions against Sri Lanka for the violation of the democratic rights of the Tamil people.
Mr Krish Govender, a former official of the Natal Sports Congress(NSC) and the South African Council of Sport(SACOS), made the call when addressing a visiting delegation of Tamil National Alliance(TNA) of Sri Lanka at the Mount Edgcombe Mariammen Temple and Cultural Centre on Saturday, April 12.
"We have to adopt the same protest actions like we did against apartheid South Africa in the current struggles to bring about freedom, peace and justice for the Tamils of Sri Lanka," said Mr Govender, a lawyer by profession and a former executive official of the Democratic Lawyers' Association(DLA), when addressing the visitors.
Tamils in Sri Lanka must also gain their freedom
He added: "We defeated apartheid South Africa and brought about a free and non-racial society because we garnered the support of the international community to impose sports, economic and other sanctions against the racist regime.
"Now that we are free, we have to assist the Tamil people in Sri Lanka to also gain their freedom by isolating the oppressive regime of Rajapakse. Only when they are isolated in cricket and other areas of life will we see some genuine attempts to stop the continued oppression of the Tamils."
The TNA officials, who arrived in the country on Wednesday, April 9, were Mr R Sampathan, MP and leader of the delegation, Mr M A Sumanthiran, MP, Mr Suresh Premchandra, MP, Mr Selvan Adikalanathan, MP, and Mr Gehan Gunatileka (Consultant).
They were accompanied by the South African High Commissioner to Colombo, Mr Geoff Doidge, during their visit.
The TNA MPs were invited by the South African Government to discuss the road ahead for Tamils following the recent United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) session in Geneva where a resolution, calling for an international investigation into the human rights violations of Tamils, was passed.
South Africa, which like India abstained during the vote, has appointed ANC Deputy President, Cyril Ramaphosa, as a Speical Envoy to Sri Lanka in an attempt to find a political solution that will be to the benefit of the Tamil people.
The TNA officials, during the visit, held top-level talks with the South African Government and Mr Ramaphosa in Pretoria, and also held discussions with Tamil and other solidarity organisations in Johannesburg and Durban that support the struggles of Tamils in Sri Lanka.
Mr Ramaphosa is also expected to hold talks with leaders of Tamil Diaspora organisations based outside Sri Lanka before embarking on a fact-finding mission to Sri Lanka after the general elections on May 7.
(Mr Sisa Njikelana,MP and chairman of the Solidarity Group, with Mr R Sampathan)
When briefing officials and guests of the Solidarity Group for Peace and Justice in Sri Lanka at Mount Edgecombe, Mr Sampathan, leader of the TNA delegation, said they were relying on the intervention of South Africa because "Tamils in Sri Lanka have no faith in the present Government of President Rajapakse".
"After the war in 2009, our traditional areas of the North and East have been invaded by the Sri Lankan military and there is no freedom," he said.
"The North and East is being colonised with people of the Singala majority by the Sri Lankan Government.
"This situation has continued despite the fact that the TNA was elected overwhelmingly in September 2013 to govern the Provincial Council in the North. We have no powers whatsoever because all powers are vested in President Rajapakse and the military.
"We cannot even appoint the Chief Secretary of the Provincial Council.
SITUATION HAS DEGENERATED WITH BANNINGS
"The situation has degenerated further after the UNHRC resolution with the Rajapakse Government proscribing a number of Diaspora organisations and banning a number of people who reside outside the country.
"There are also more than 800 activists who are being detained by the security apparatus."
Mr Sampathan said they wanted a political solution that would provide self-government for the North and East in a united and democratic Sri Lanka. Such a solution must entrench the cultural and religious rights of the Tamils, Singalese and Muslims.
Mr Suresh Premachandran, another TNA official, said the situation in Sri Lanka for Tamils was "bleak" when asked whether a referendum should not be held for Tamils to decide their own future.
"We are looking at all possibilities. In the end the Tamils must decide whether they want to be part of a united country, a federal state, a confederal state or a separate state.
"We want to live in peace and justice with all people."
SOUTH AFRICA WANTS A POLITICAL SOLUTION THAT WILL PROMOTE THE RIGHTS OF TAMILS
The South African High Commissioner to Colombo, Mr Geoff Doidge, said the South African Government was working closely with the TNA to bring about a solution that would be in the interests of the Tamils.
He said South Africa was promoting dialogue between the TNA and the Sri Lankan Government so that a political solution could be achieved.
"Our Speical Envoy, Mr Cyril Ramaphosa, will soon hold talks with leaders of Tamil Diaspora organisations before embarking on his mission to Sri Lanka", he said.
"During his mission Mr Ramaphosa will visit the affected areas and talk to the people concerned.
"We are involved in discussions that would lead to talks about talks between the TNA and the Sri Lankan Government and finally a political settlement that would appeal to all role players.
"Currently, I am spending 90 percent of my time promoting the Tamil cause," he said. sg/dbn