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Hole in the Wall

Life is difficult for the villagers of Hole in the Wall

where crops failed disastrously this year with torrential downpours bringing rainfall of over double the normal annual average, and there is heightening drama over the woman "headman" who has to all intents and purposes usurped power in the area and has her opposition effectively tied-up and confounded by restraining orders.

The late Headman, Mzoxolo Mdedeleni, passed away in 2003 leaving no legal heir. His estranged wife of several years, Nowinas (who apparently left him of her own accord and had been living with another man in Johannesburg), was asked at the funeral by elders whether she had any legitimate son by the late headman; and she is reported to have said that she had only 3 daughters by the man. However, she later returned from Johannesburg with 3 boys whom she is now claiming are Mdedeleni's sons. The local community believe the boys bear no resemblance to the Headman, and that they are "from the bush", so to speak - and insist on having DNA tests to settle the issue. In any event, the local community want Mdedeleni's half-brother (Madikude, of the same royal bloodline) to rule instead; but arguments against her were met with restraining orders... and arrests when the restraining orders were inevitably broken. Two sub-headmen from the district (one of whom is the sub-headman nominally in control of the village and lands at Hole in the Wall itself) and two of their advisors have been out on bail of R1,000 each since August 2006 - and have appeared at the High Court in Umtata several times for remandments.

Integrally woven into this escalating crisis is the issue of the DLA giving a huge and priceless tract of land overlooking the Hole to an outside entity of questionable associations (Bossie Bosman, an ex policeman who is CEO of Incopho Projects Consortium, is believed to have achieved this landmark R.O.D. with the aid of the ward counsellor and woman headman, and a hastily shuffled ex deputy director of Land Affairs (Bryant Noncebu?) who was last seen or heard of somewhere in KZN) without ever consulting the 4 local families to whom the land physically belongs. Whether true or not, the feeling of the local community is that the government and the "developer" are pressurizing them to accept the de facto expropriation of their land.

So the people from the Hole in the Wall village are protesting not only the usurping of their traditional seat of power by the estranged wife of their rightful leader; but also the roughshod manner in which the Incopho consortium and various government departments have been treating them - "like ignorant xabas!" in the words of a prominent local person.

The supporters of the project are the contentious Nowinas and her prominent fans - which include ward counsellor Mvunge, James Wright from Crocodile Vlei and Gom from Nenga. U'Nowinas' people guard the fenced land zealously and seem like an army of occupation. On being questioned they all claim to be working for Bossie and have no further duties than to guard the occupied land's fence.

And as the anger and resentment mounts huts have been burned and 3 of Nowinas' supporters shot and injured. The police, who were sent in to calm the situation 2 weeks ago, are looking for the shooter/s and have been interrogating people at the local shebeens. At least 8 people, including several elderly, have been assaulted during the course of their investigations.

No employment = no food. You can't collect or sell crayfish, fish, mussels or oysters without a license; and to make matters worse, last spring tide when the sea was beautifully flat, no locals, not even those who had licenses, were harvesting - because several tourists are facing fines of up to R16,000 for being caught in possession or over the limit for oysters, mussels and crayfish ... and an over zealous 23 year old conservation officer was known to be roaming around pointing his gun at people carrying goggles and flippers.

In the past 6 months two local men have perished in shallow water drownings while crayfishing at the Hole in the Wall. It's a seriously dangerous business.

This may just be a simple conspiracy of bureaucratic incompetence, or something entirely more sinister. Either way, it's mid-winter and screaming cold at night lately. A couple of days ago one of the women in the village, Kholeka, asked me where she could get a license for collecting wood from the forest behind her house. Peter has also approached me to find out how he can get permission to retrieve the dead wood from the forest at the Hole.

Comments

A man was murdered last week on Thursday night. The deceased is believed to be the father of one of the blue uniformed guards.

It must have been Thursday before last (therefore the 28 June 2007). He just returned after undergoing treatment with a sangoma somewhere... and died the very same night he got home. The last time I saw him, about a month before, I was on my run up to the viewspot and he was walking down the hill with his stick hung jauntily across his shoulder. He seemed fine. I thought he had a few years left, at least, that's what he told me. This is so strange. I've never known so many people dying from so many causes in such a short time: Tele, Max, Section, the lynched man, the crayfisher... now Tata.

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