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Khululeka Retreat

Self catering lodge in Port St Johns area, offering rooms or whole lodge rental. Rates, facilities, property images, and location map included in website.



Mobile: +27 (0)72 1943644 Fax: +27 (0)86 6724096

Paradise. Right Here, Right Now.

If you want to get off the beaten track to a place that is unique for its beauty and unspoilt surroundings, you will love Khululeka Retreat. Set in an Indigenous State Forest high on the hills with an awesome 180-degree view of the sea and estuary, Khululeka Retreat is just that. Peaceful, private and remote.

The Fisherman

by Trevor Gothan
14 October 2009

The Fisherman

As a teenager we often spent the holidays on the Wild Coast, where my father loved fishing for steenbras off his favourite rocks. On one blustery day, I chose not to fish alongside him in the cold salt spray and rather joined a Xhosa fisherman at a more sheltered spot, some distance away.

Both hoping for a few bream for lunch, we stared at our lines in fruitless expectation for the first hour. Thereafter, we engaged in a more interesting, but somewhat difficult conversation, for his mastery of English was about as limited as my abilities in isiXhosa.

After some formalities about weather, bait and fish, our conversation turned to our lives. Zamuxolo pointed out his kraal on a green hill across the bay, and then asked where I was from and what I did.

I enthusiastically explained that I was studying to be an engineer at Wits and finding it quite tough.

"Why are you doing that?" he responded.

"To get a good qualification and hopefully a well paying job," I replied.

"What for?" he queried. This required some thought.

"To earn enough to educate my kids, pay for a nice home and retire comfortably one day when I'm old," I confided.

"And then what will you do?" Zamuxolo probed.

"Probably live at the coast in a place like this, where I can fish and relax all year round," I said, trying to think of what else I might do.

He stared at me for about a minute and then lit his pipe, as if to try and understand my thought processes a little better. "You mean to do what I have been doing all my life here at Qora? Why must you wait until you are an old man?"

I had no easy answer.

I still chose to complete my engineering studies and, while working in Germany a few years later, I received another lesson in the philosophy of life. I had just spent a year working in the UK, which I had found difficult. It was during Harold Wilson's premiership when unions ran amok and companies were battling to keep afloat. My German colleague explained the problem.

"The Germans," he said, "work very hard to accumulate the trappings of material success, for which they are proud and they would gladly take you to their fancy home in their Mercedes to show it off."

"The French," he added, "love the 'joie de vivre' and prefer to entertain you at their favourite bistro with their friends - even if it costs them their full day's pay. Their home is not usually for showing off.

"Then there are the Spanish. They prefer to work less in their heat and would happily earn less, provided they still get their siesta in the afternoon.

"The British, however, want to work as hard as the Spanish, but enjoy life like the French and have the accoutrements of the Germans."

For me, these two encounters summed up the choices we have. None of the above philosophies is "better" than another, just different in priorities.

What I know, however, is that one cannot have it all, except the few that are able to cheat the system and do so at somebody else's expense. I chose what I got; accept what I missed and I'm happy.

Experience the spectacular Wild Coast by air

Port Elizabeth – 2 October 2009

Sheltam Aviation (, one of the country's leading air charter providers with offices in Port Elizabeth and Durban, has launched a dynamic new website, with a special focus on promoting tourism in the remote yet spectacular Wild Coast.

The Wild Coast is one of the fastest growing tourist destinations, offering unspoilt natural beauty set in a tropical adventure paradise – and is best experienced from the air in a scenic low-level flight with Sheltam Aviation, from our Port Elizabeth or Durban branches, or from anywhere in South Africa.

See coast fly-in for more info.

Flying with Sheltam Aviation to any of the Wild Coast's abundant attractions reveals the region's fantastic scenery, offers ultimate convenience by landing at your lodge of choice and eliminates the lengthy drives on the area's less-than-perfect roads – all of which ensures that you get the very best out of your Wild Coast holiday.

  • Breathtaking scenery
    Make the flight a memorable part of your vacation.
  • Ultimate convenience
    Fly directly to your destination.
  • More time on holiday, less in the car
    Port Elizabeth – Port St Johns: 1 ½ hours by air, 7 hours by road.
    Durban or East London – Port St Johns: 50 min by air, 4 ½ hours by road.
  • Action attractions
    The country's top destination for scuba diving, hiking, fishing, canoeing, cultural experiences, dolphin and whale watching, the annual Sardine Run… and so much more.
  • Xhosa Dictionaries and Resources


    NEW: Xhosa Live Dictionary  Best online Xhosa - English dictionary. Translates individual words from/to English or Xhosa.

    Xhosa Translator For translating whole sentences. Doesn't work well with individual words.

    English/Xhosa/English Dictionary Large database and easy to use search engine. No grammatical explanations, and some entries are inaccurate. Better suited for Xhosa speakers learning English, as many entries contain one English word with long Xhosa descriptions.

    Webster's Online Dictionary A list of Xhosa words (and some random phrases) that have been translated from English. Not very extensive. And these resources:

    Our Shoreline on SABC2

    A spectacular glimpse of the Wild Coast.

    Available from

    Shoreline is a South African documentary series commissioned by SABC 2. It is a multidisciplinary showcase of all the unique and diverse features along our coastline – geology, paleontology, history, settlement patterns, marine biology, ecology etc.

    One of the main features of this series is that it is presented by a team of specialist presenters – archaeologist Gavin Whitelaw, historian Nomalanga Mkhize and marine biologist Eleanor Yeld. Anchor presenter Peter Butler and his dog Nujack guide our experts on the journey around the coast.

    Shoreline consists of 13 episodes and in each episode we visit a stretch of coastline to get a sense of its character and stories to help build a picture of our unique coastline. We reveal how natural wonders and historic events have shaped the lives of coastal communities.’

    The Shoreline DVD box set will be available after the series ends on 12 October 2009. SABC will also be giving away several DVD box sets of the series. See for competition details.

    Episode Ten of Shoreline, on Monday the 14'th, features the Wild Coast from Cove Rock (East London) to Port Grosvenor. Click here: Episode Ten for an overview.

    "This untamed wilderness is filled with rolling green hills and unspoilt beaches, secluded bays fringed with wild banana trees, tranquil lagoons and dense coastal forests, deeply carved valleys and precipitous cliffs where waterfalls plummet into the sea.

    Violent storms and monstrous waves sometimes batter the coast, and many ships have met an untimely end here. Ancient myths and legends are rife, and the diverse peoples represent a rich cultural heritage. This is a shoreline truly deserving of its name – the Wild Coast."

    Red Sands of XolobeniRed Sands of XolobeniEpisode Eleven, On Monday the 21'st, will explore Mkambati to Amanzimtoti, including the Pondoland Centre of Endemism and the threatened Xolobeni area. See Episode Eleven for more info.

    "A recent study of the flora of four sites in the PC has revealed 2253 different species, of which 196 were endemic to the PC. This level of floral diversity is truly impressive, considering that the whole of Great Britain contains only about 1400 species. Species density in the PC is also exceptionally high, with about 2500 species in 1900 km2 – compared to about 9 000 species in 90 000 km2 in the Cape Flora. Scientifically, the PC has been comparatively poorly surveyed, and new plant species are continually being discovered. The region is particularly rich in woody endemics, and contains more than 30 endemic species of robust creepers, shrubs and trees – the highest count for endemic tree species in South Africa. The PC contains many rare and unusual plants, and some are so rare that no local names are known, such as the so-called Pondo Bushman’s tea (Lydenburgia abbottii). This is the rarest forest tree endemic to South Africa, with only about 200-500 specimens in existence. The entire population occurs between the Amphitheatre in the Umtamvuna Nature Reserve and the Msikaba River – a total range of only 40 kilometres. It is estimated that many of the trees could be as old as 1000 years."

    Hole again

    (c) Neels Botma(c) Neels Botma

    To see more of Neels Botma's beautiful photography, go here:

    Scientists discover 18 new spider, snail and worm species in the Mkambathi Nature Reserve

    Scientists in South Africa discover 18 new spider, snail and worm species

    By David Smith in Johannesburg
    Tuesday 18 August 2009

    Scientists surveying a nature reserve in South Africa have discovered 18 previously unrecorded species of invertebrates, including spiders, snails, millipedes, earthworms and centipedes.

    The trove of creatures was uncovered in eight days by researchers and volunteers working for the environmental charity Earthwatch at the Mkhambathi nature reserve on the spectacular Wild Coast in the Eastern Cape.

    However, scientists warned that planned developments in the area could threaten the ecosystem and deny them the chance to identify further species.

    Jan Venter, an ecologist working for Eastern Cape Parks, which manages the reserve, said that the 29 square mile area had previously attracted only ad hoc surveys and butterfly collectors.

    "To get so many species in one survey shows the importance of the reserve. It's a very special area, conservation-wise. If we do another survey, we'll find just as many." The team suspects that another 18 species might be discovered.

    Row brews as minister mulls go-ahead


    August 16 2009 at 06:51PM

    The dispute over community consent for Xolobeni Mineral Sands Project is hotting up as Minerals and Energy Minister Susan Shabangu considers granting the final go-ahead.

    The plans are to excavate 346 million tons of titanium and other heavy minerals along a 22m stretch of the Wild Coast below Port Edward.

    Mining it will generate R560-million yearly, with R42m to be spent on local salaries each year and R2,9-billion going to the government.

    But conservationists are protesting because the mineral area lies in a vast, unspoilt wilderness region that offers considerable ecotourism potential.

    This article was originally published on page 6 of Cape Argus on August 16, 2009

    Important to note that not just environmentalists, but hundreds of members of the community attended the protest march last year, including many elders, the headman, and other prominent community leaders. As if more proof was needed, even King Mpondomise and the Royal House are against the proposed strip mining.

    Daily Sun - 17 September 2008: Click on the pic to view the article.Daily Sun - 17 September 2008: Click on the pic to view the article.

    See also: Minister admits consultation process ‘flawed’

    and Questions hover over Wild Coast mining deal amongst other updates and info at

    100 years since SS Waratah disappeared off the Wild Coast

    SS WaratahSS WaratahThe Waratah 1908 - 29 July 1909

    The SS Waratah, sometimes referred to as "Australia's Titanic", was a 500 foot steamer. In July 1909, the ship, en route from Durban to Cape Town, disappeared with 211 passengers and crew aboard. The disappearance of the ship remains one of the most baffling nautical mysteries of all time. To this day no trace of the ship has ever been found.

    According to Dispatch archives, the 10 000 ton ship passed along the Transkei coast on July 28, 1909 after stopping off in Durban the previous day.

    It was heading to London and would have stopped over in Cape Town before setting sail on the high seas. A Dispatch report from July 1971 said: “Two people had disembarked in Durban – one to find a job and the other after he dreamt that the ship would sink – and after being spotted by two other ships along the Transkei coast, the Waratah disappeared in what was to become ‘one of the most baffling nautical mysteries of all time’.”

    History and folklore of Hole in the Wall

    Photo (c) Neels BotmaPhoto (c) Neels BotmaHole-in-the-Wall is one of the most impressive landmarks along the entire South African coastine. Second only to Table Mountain, most likely, though only a fraction of the size.

    Standing at the mouth of the Mpako River, the cliff consists of dark-blue shales, mudstones and sandstones of the Ecca Group, dating back some 260 million years. These rocks were subsequently intruded by a dolerite sheet, and the ‘hole’ was created over millions of years by the buffeting waves, which eroded away the softer rocks underneath the dolerite to form an arch. The same process also eventually separated the cliff from the mainland.

    Hole-in-the-Wall was named by Captain Vidal of the vessel Barracouta, sent by the British Admiralty in 1823 to survey the coastline between the Keiskamma River and Lourenço Marques (now Maputo). Vidal took his ship to within 800m of the coast, and described in his log "where two ponderous black rocks above the water’s edge, upwards of 80 feet above its surface, exhibiting through the phenomenon of a natural archway", prompting him to name it the Hole-in-the-Wall. The local Bomvana people named the formation ‘EsiKhaleni’, or the Place of the Sound.

    Local legend has it that the river running through the Hole-in-the-Wall (Mpako River) once formed a landlocked lagoon as its access to the sea was blocked by a cliff. A beautiful girl lived in a village near the lagoon cut off from the sea by the mighty cliff. One day she was seen by one of the sea people - semi deities who look like humans but have supple wrists and ankles and flipperlike hands and feet - who became overwhelmed by her beauty and tried to woo her. When the girl’s father found out he forbade her to see her lover. So at high tide one night, the sea people came to the cliff and, with the help of a huge fish, rammed a hole through the centre of the cliff. As they swam into the lagoon they shouted and sang, causing the villagers to hide in fear. In the commotion the girl and her lover were reunited and disappeared into the sea. At certain times of the year, it is said, the music and singing of the sea people can be heard.

    Xhosa legend holds that this is the gateway to the world of their ancestors. The local Xhosa call this place "esiKhaleni", which means "place of thunder" or "place of sound." During certain seasons and water conditions the waves clap in such a fashion that the concussion can be heard throughout the valley.

    Hole-in-the-Wall and the tragedy of the prophetess:
    A young girl called Nongqawuse had seen a messenger from the realm of the ancestors at a waterhole. She told her uncle Mhlakaza about her vision. As he was an important Xhosa priest, his social rank granted a great impact to the prophecy he derived from his niece's vision. He announced that soldiers who were incarnations of the souls of dead Xhosa warriors, would arrive on the 18th of February over the sea, come onto land through the "Hole in the Wall" and defeat the hated British. But, he continued, the Xhosa had to make a sacrifice to help the warriors by destroying all their cereals and killing all their cattle. After the victory, there would be food in abundance for everybody. The Xhosa followed the instructions in his prophecy and killed their whole stock of cattle. The catastrophe took its course and thousands of Xhosa perished from famine. (

    Jah Drums in Coffee Bay


    When you're in Coffee Bay, a great way to spend some time is visiting Jah Drums.

    You can make your own drum at Jah Drums Drum Factory; or simply buy one of their professional instruments.

    Also visit the restaurant and enjoy some Ital food prepared by Isham.


    You'll find them right next to Afritude where you can buy original Afritude T-shirts. The funkiest clothing line in South Africa.



    The Lorax was written and illustrated by Theodore (Dr. Seuss) Giesel in 1971 as a colorful childrens book, with a biting satirical message - for adults and children alike - about man's tendency to invade and destroy his natural environment. It is a pointed commentary on the expansion of the logging industry in the early 70s that is even more relevant today than it was 38 years ago when he created it.

    Wild Coast Hiking (Guided hikes from Port St Johns to Coffee Bay)

    The Best way to experience the beauty of the Wild Coast is to take the 5 day hiking trail run by Jimmy and Mbuyi. Please visit their site for more information, rates and details  at

    The Port St. Johns to Coffee Bay Hiking Trail goes through some of the most beautiful hiking landscape in South Africa. The trail hugs a stretch of coastline along the former Transkei homeland, and is unspoilt and barely touched by development. You will walk along rolling grassy hills dotted with colourful huts, idyllic beaches, estuaries flanked by thick coastal forest and cliffs with stunning sea views. Hikers sleep in hikers’ huts and village accommodation. You will also learn a little bit of Xhosa Language and experience the Xhosa food. If you’re hiking at the right time of the year, you will most likely see dolphins and whales.

    The duration of the hiking trail is five days with four overnight stops.

    Your guides are Dreadlock Jimmy Selani, and Mbuyi Mangala:


    Check their site for some reviews on the hike.

    Reports of Wild Coast toll road approval “abuse public trust”

    Tuesday, June 30th, 2009

    By Hilary Venables

    Radio reports that the controversial Wild Coast toll road has been approved are not only premature, but part of a deliberate campaign of disinformation by certain members of government, according to opponents of the scheme.

    The SABC carried the claim in a succession of both English and Xhosa bulletins last Sunday, basing it on comments made by the Minister of Co-Operative Governance, Sicelo Shiceka. It’s the second time in a month that the national broadcaster has reported Shiceka as saying the toll road has been given the official go-ahead.

    In fact, no decision has yet been made. A spokesperson for the Department of Water and the Environment, which has yet to consider the application, confirmed that they were still waiting for the report on the Environmental Impact Assessment.

    Social worker John Clarke, a spokesperson for Sustain the Wild Coast and the Amadiba Crisis Committee, said certain politicians were deliberately spreading misinformation.

    “They use radio because they know most of the people are illiterate. They are abusing the customary respect which traditional people show to their leaders. This is an act of desperation – they are breaking a bond of trust.”

    Media liaison officer for the Shiceka’s department, Vuyelwa Vika, insists her boss was misquoted.

    “When he said the road would go ahead, he was saying that it must go ahead, because it’s an opportunity we can’t miss … it’s important for development in the area,” she said.

    The road, and the proposed titanium mine which it is being built primarily to serve, are the subjects of a well-documented and long-running dispute that has pitted the mining company and sympathetic politicians against the local community, environmentalists, social workers and the KwazuluNatal provincial government.

    Opponents want economic development in the area to be oriented towards tourism, small farming and “green” jobs which they say will provide sustainable livelihoods, while the mine will destroy nearby farms and natural habitat and leave a toxic wasteland when it closes down in a couple of decades.

    But Vika claimed that the road now had the approval of the community, including AmaMpondo King Mpondombini Sigcau and Queen MaSobhuza Sigcau, who have long been staunch opponents of both the mine and the proposed route of the road.

    “The minister was in the area two weeks ago, and he invited the King and Queen to a private function at his homestead,” Vika said.

    “They discussed the toll road and the King and Queen said they want the project to go ahead.”

    This is not how Queen Sicgau remembers it.

    “We did attend the function, but we hardly spoke to the minister. We arrived late and had to leave soon after so we only spent five minutes talking to him. We didn’t discuss the toll road with him,” she told me.

    “We have never been approached by the minister regarding the toll road.”

    She also said that the royal couple’s position had not changed on either the road or the mine.

    Community activist Nontshiza Pasika was adamant that the community was as opposed to the road as ever.

    “If this road was meant for the people, it would connect villages to clinics and schools and farmers to the market. But we can see it’s being built for the mine.

    “The mine is a spectre hanging over us. Until they separate the road from the mine, we will oppose the road.’ –

    What Shiceko really said
    The transcript of the news bulletin shows that the SABC was indeed liberal in its translation of Shiceka’s words.

    According to the news as read: “Government has given the green light for the controversial N2 toll road stretching through the Wild Coast to go ahead. This, despite objections from Non Governmental Organisations, environmentalists, local communities and the KwaZulu/Natal government.”

    This is followed by actuality of Shiceka speaking: “We are saying the N2 Road is going ahead , we are going to ensure that those who are opposed to it must engage with us, but we must make sure that this thing is going ahead, We have heard that the municipal manager of eThekwini in KwaZulu Natal is opposed to it, we will engage him, or any other person. The NGOs if they are opposed to it they must provide jobs for the people, but we believe the traditional leaders and traditional communities they are supporting and behind this thing. It is going to go ahead.”

    Which is not quite the same thing, but given the scale of the opposition, it certainly reveal a remarkable level of confidence on Siceka’s part. –

    The road to hell is paved with good intentions?


    GOVERNMENT has approved plans for the construction of a toll route through the Wild Coast in the face of fierce opposition from environmentalists and the royal house of AmaMpondo.

    The project, initially intended to take off some 10 years ago, has been stalled by objections from Pondoland communities whose homes the road will cut through, and from environmentalists who fear the ecological impact.

    Environmentalists are also concerned a portion of the road between Lusikisiki and Port Edward will bisect the Pondoland Centre of Endemism (PCE) sections of the proposed Wild Coast/Pondoland National Park.

    The approval of the project, by Minister for Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs Sicelo Shiceka, was justified by the economic spin-offs in an area of severe poverty and disease.

    Departmental spokesperson Vuyelwa Vika said the toll road, which will start from Buffalo City and go through Transkei to Isipingo south of Durban, had strong business appeal, and constant delays were detrimental only to communities along the proposed route.

    “After visiting the area and witnessing for himself the poverty and disease that exists in that area, the minister felt that the people had suffered great neglect since there has been no significant development in the past 15 years,” she said.

    Vika said people could not continue living in hope after repeated promises of development.

    “There will be a consultation process, to be complete within the next three months, during which stakeholders, including communities, environmentalists and everyone who has ever raised issues about the development, will be consulted,” she said .

    She added that all legal actions brought against government for the project also would be sorted out by then.

    During construction the road is expected to generate about 6800 direct and up to 21300 indirect jobs, with 900 of them permanent.

    About 18000 indirect jobs are expected to exist after the road was built.

    Kings in the area have voiced their unhappiness over the construction , calling it an invasion of natural land lush with natural flora, fauna and the site of the graves of their forefathers.

    They had also vigorously resisted the mining of a 23km strip of land in Xolobeni, with threats to go to court to stop it with a human rights body joining in the fray.

    The road was regarded as paving the way for the mining project.

    Attempts to get their comment on the pending construction were unfruitful yesterday.

    “By the end of the year a decision on the mining project would have been reached, so that if it does not continue alternative developmental projects must be put in place,” Vika said.

    Yesterday the Sustaining the Wild Coast (SWC) initiative vigorously opposed to the construction of the road, said the three months consultation process was not only impractical but a recipe for disaster.

    Land rights activist and SWC community co-ordinator Pasika Nontshiza said: “This is ridiculous, they would not have completed consultation for a project which will erode 85km of endemic species, from where people get their plants and herbs.”

    He said the community they claimed to be concerned about had received no responses to their concerns on the future of the existing projects, from which they derived an income.

    “They are not against development, but they do not know what they gain from this,” he said.

    He added that by announcing his decision through the media, the minister was violating the “code of consultation”, and repeating mistakes that had led to the opposition of the project.

    He said that the promise of jobs was a tool used by the authorities to bolster their position.

    “We have jobs that are in harmony with nature – why can’t they be boosted?”

    The South African National Roads Agency Limited (Sanral), under whom the project falls, yesterday said safeguarding and protecting endemic species formed part of their plan, as did alleviating poverty and empowering communities.

    “The process has taken too long, but we had to follow all legal processes,” Sanral CEO Nazir Ali said.

    He said the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), which they had been asked to re-do, was almost ready, they were just processing public and community input.

    “In the meantime poverty levels have deepened,” he added.

    Agreeing that the project was lucrative, and would provide much needed jobs, the Democratic Alliance’s national transport spokesperson, Stuart Farrow, said it should not be undertaken at the expense of the people and environment.

    “Consultation with the communities should be extensive … and the EIA should be taken into consideration to ensure that no vegetation is wiped out,” he said.

    He added that although the project meant a new and improved road, a single trip could cost drivers R250 from East London to Durban, although regular travellers could apply for an exemption.

    The road would also bypass a number of small towns, including Bizana, Flagstaff and Kokstad.

    “Will they survive the economic impact of this or will they die?” Farrow asked. - By NTANDO MAKHUBU

    Red Dunes of Xolobeni - the curse of the black dirt

    Simon Max Bannister has compiled a brilliant photo essay of his hike around Mzamba and Xolobeni.

    Do yourself a favor and follow this link: and see for yourself the unspoilt beauty of the threatened area.

    Better yet, contact Benny Mbotho on 079-1985 975 / or through Sonya on 074-336 7862 - for a guided day-trip, or longer hike.

    Also do check the rest of Simon's Blog which features some of his fascinating "recycled" artwork.

    How to create a web page on


    Step 1: Create your page by clicking on "Web Page" below the "Create Content" menu.

    Step 2: Add a relevant subject/title for your page (E.g. your business name).

    Step 3: Select your town or area from the drop down menu (E.g. Port St Johns). This step ensures that your page will appear on top of the relevant page. It's last come first served, so newest additions will always appear at the top of the page.

    Step 4: Select the relevant categories from the Tourism entry box (E.g. Accommodation, Cottages, Self catered). You can select multiple categories by holding down the [Ctrl] key on your keyboard.

    Step 5: Optionally enter additional (comma separated keyword tags. (E.g. surf, horse riding, adventure).

    Opinion piece

    I commented recently about the cabinet ministry changes, and made a similar comment about Buyelwa Sonjica (who is now Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs) and her obvious pro-industrialization inclinations, so I think it's fairly appropriate to post  Tonie Carnie's article published in The Mercury on 13 May 2009.


    White Rhino

    Gamekeepers versus poachers in new cabinet May 13, 2009 Edition 1 By Tony Carnie

    President Jacob Zuma's decision to separate some of the "poacher" and "gamekeeper" cabinet ministries seems to make a lot of sense at the structural level, but the proof of the pudding remains in the eating.

    It can be argued that environmental affairs and tourism belong in one ministry because they are closely linked, but there has always been inherent tension between regulating and protecting the environment on one hand and the simultaneous promotion of the commercial imperatives of the tourism sector.

    The same goes for the former union between water affairs and forestry. Protecting our precious water resources also sits uncomfortably with promoting commercial timber plantations, which suck up scarce water and land.

    A somewhat similar scenario of lumping poachers and gamekeepers in one ministry was also apparent in the traditional union between minerals and energy affairs - now separated into two ministries.

    For too long, the minerals sector (often representing the interests of mining giants such as Anglo American, Kumba and BHP Billiton, or the powerful oil and fossil fuel lobby) has been the senior partner in the incestuous marriage with energy affairs.

    Hopefully, the separation will open up the space for the development of cleaner, renewable energy options such as wind, solar and wave energy in the new era of global climate change - though it is unlikely that the "poachers" will fail to guard their strategic turf any less assiduously under the new alignment of cabinet ministries.

    Yet it seems rather ominous that water seems to have assumed senior partner status in the new Ministry of Water and Environmental Affairs.

    It may be a matter of semantics as to which function gets top billing in the title, but elevating "water" above "environment" seems to be an indication that the protection of the environment continues to play second fiddle to economic growth and the utilitarian value of water.  Clean water, clean air and unpolluted soil are all children of the broader environmental parent - not the other way around. It's a bit like creating a ministry of catholic and religious Affairs, which deliberately assumes dominance by the Catholics and relegates the Islamic, Hindu or Anglican faith branches into positions of subservience.

    And what, if anything, can be read into the choice of personalities to head the realigned ministries and departments?

    Marthinus van Schalkwyk certainly seems to have been booted into the sidelines with his appointment as tourism minister. No longer will he enjoy centre stage at the forthcoming world climate change talks in Copenhagen, despite exceeding the expectations of several observers during his tenure as environment minister.

    In his place, Buyelwa Sonjica has been named Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs. Some observers have commented disparagingly about Sonjica's previous position as minerals and energy minister, particularly in relation to the Wild Coast dune mining saga. Sonjica blotted her copybook in the eyes of several environmentalists with her vocal support for the Xolobeni dune mining venture, and worsened this with her crass, racial attack on human rights and labour attorney Richard Spoor, who has acted on behalf of several (black) Xolobeni residents opposed to the mining plan.

    Racial identity should not play any role in raising awareness about the crucial need to protect our deteriorating life-support system - but hopefully Sonjica will now contribute to breaking down some of the abiding perceptions that environmental protection remains the domain of "rich whiteys".

    More to the point, however, it remains to be seen whether Zuma's cabinet will elevate the profile of environmental custodianship or continue to deepen the ruts in the narrow and well-trodden pathway towards economic "progress".

    Coast to Coast

    See for a comprehensive directory of Wild Coast and Southern African backpacker hostels and lodges.

    You can download Coast to Coast in .pdf format here.

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