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Melmoth and Makhalafukwe

by Stephen Hayes
Makhalafukwe was a shantytown (informal
settlement) in the village of Melmoth, Zululand in
the 1970s and 1980s. This paper describes a
community development project by the Anglican
diocese of Zululand in 1981-82, and the formation
of a community organisation called Iso loMuzi.

Introduction
Melmoth is a small town about 50 kilometres north of Eshowe in Zululand.
This document is mainly my personal recollections of its history, and
especially that of Makhalafukwe, which in the apartheid era was a section of
the town occupied by black people living in informal housing.

History
Melmoth was named after Sir Melmoth Osborne, the British Resident of
Zululand after the Anglo-Zulu War of 1879. Originally a township was laid out
about 15 km north-east of the present town, and named Osborne. The vehicle
registration numbers for the Mthonjaneni District, NO, reflected this. But gold
was discovered on the farm Golden Reef, and a new village sprang up there,
which grew more rapidly than the original. The name of the farm on which
Osborne was situated was changed to “Protest” as a result. This farm was
owned by Mr B.E. Vanderplank, and it was only in the 1970s that he got all
the title deeds to the land, making it possible for the township of Osborne to
be deproclaimed.
The gold rush soon fizzled out, and Melmoth became the centre of a farming
district, with a magistrate’s office for the Emthonjaneni (Entonjaneni) district, a
police station and a few shops. In the 1970s and 1980s the main crops were
sugar cane and wattle. The Natal Tanning Extract Company had its office on
Golden Reef farm, just out of town on the Eshowe road, and it had a factory
on the other side of town, on the road to Babanango and Ulundi. The factory
closed in the 1980s, which also led to a decline in wattle growing on the
farms, and more were converted to sugar cane. At the end of the 20th century,
however, timber had begun to make a come-back, though mainly eucalyptus
and pine, and also began to spread towards Babanango, where a lot of
pasture land was put under trees.

MAKHALAFUKWE
I was told that Makhalafukwe was started in the 1960s or 1970s. In terms of
the apartheid laws, Melmoth was reserved for occupation by whites, and black
policemen who were stationed there had nowhere to live, so the town board
gave them permission to build their own houses on land behind the post office
and the primary school (then for whites only).

1
Other black people who worked in the town then also built houses there. It
was originally in the pattern of a rural settlement, with houses being mainly
built of wattle and daub, with thatched or corrugated iron roofs. So there were
no problems at the beginning, other than the fact that the residents had no
legal security of tenure – they were there by “grace and favour” of the town
board, and could be evicted by the town board. But it was also not a
proclaimed African urban township, and so was free of the regulations
governing such townships.1
As the settlement grew, however, it deteriorated. The population became too
dense for rural housing to be adequate, and the lack of urban infrastructure
began to be felt. There was a need for such services as rubbish removal,
paved streets, light, water and sewerage. Many of the later dwellings were
slum dwellings, built of poles and corrugated iron, beer cartons and plastic
sheeting.

MELMOTH IN THE APARTHEID ERA


The apartheid policy of the National Party government was based on the
theory that blacks only had residence rights in “homelands”, which were
eventually were to become independent. Chief Gatsha Buthelezi, the Zulu
leader, for a long time resisted the idea of a “homeland”, and the Zulu people
were punished for this by the government, with no money being made
available for any kind of development of schools, health services and the like.
In the early 1970s, therefore, Buthelezi changed his stance on this, and
“KwaZulu” began to be administered as a “homeland”.2
In order for “KwaZulu” to have a “homeland” government (called by the
Nationalist government “uzibuse”), a large number of white civil servants were
brought in.3 These lived in Melmoth, and most of them commuted every day

1
Questions: Did people living in Makhalafukwe ever pay rent to the town board? Did later
residents ever ask permission to settle there? Did the town board ever keep a register of the
inhabitants?
2
KwaZulu was the Zulu name for what in English was called Zululand, the territory ruled by
the Zulu kings Shaka, Dingane, Mpande and Cetshwayo. Its independence was ended by the
Anglo-Zulu War of 1889. In 1893, after its territory had been shrunk by filibusters from the
ZAR who formed the New Republic at Vryheid, it was annexed by the Natal colony.
Thereafter Zululand was a county of Natal, and KwaZulu was the Zulu name for it. Melmoth
was therefore part of Zululand, but under the “homeland” idea it was not part of “KwaZulu” in
the apartheid sense. The apartheid “KwaZulu” excluded large parts of Zululand, which were
occupied by whites, and included large parts of other counties of Natal, which were occupied
by blacks (some of whom had never been ruled by the Zulu kings).
3
Uzibuse is a Zulu word meaning “to rule oneself”, but in practice, as used by the Nationalist
government, it meant to be ruled by white civil servants. The word was therefore used
cynically by many Zulu-speaking people to mean a phoney independence or self-rule. Like
“KwaZulu”, “uzibuse” became part of the language of apartheid political correctness, where
the Nationalist government tried to change people’s consciousness by changing language.
Words like “Bantu”, “homeland” and “own affairs” are a few examples. To this abuse of
language, I give the shorthand name of “Natspeak”. The intention of Natspeak was to
brainwash people into accepting the government’s policies by getting them to accept the
government’s terminology for describing things. This brainwashing was far more successful
among whites than among blacks, and whites generally adopted the politically-correct
vocabulary. Blacks tended to resist more. For example, Anglican clergy in Zululand refused to
buy or issue ecumenical baptism certificates that were recognised by a number of
denominations. One of the denominations was the Bantu Presbyterian Church, and they

2
to their offices in Ulundi, 40 kilometres away. A convoy of mini-buses,
nicknamed “the white pigs”, would make the daily journey. A separate fleet of
minibuses would ferry black people who lived in Ulundi (Ondini) and worked in
Melmoth in the opposite direction. This arrangement was the apartheid
regime’s response to the energy crisis.
The white civil servants moved to Melmoth in the mid-1970s, and doubled the
white population of the town within a year. This gave rise to some resentment
among the older white residents, who thought that the newcomers would
change the character of their peaceful little village. There were several
churches in the village, and some of them, including the Anglican, Assemblies
of God, Catholic, and Methodist Churches, came up with a plan to welcome
the newcomers. Their leaders said that the new people would be there,
whether the older residents liked it or not, and so it would be better to make
them welcome, rather than receiving them with hostility from the start. So a
welcome brochure was prepared, inviting people to join the town’s churches,
and as people moved in, members of the churches visited them and gave
them this brochure.4

Melmoth Churches
There were five church buildings in Melmoth: All Saints Anglican Church, the
Assemblies of God, the Methodist Church, the Nederduitse Gereformeerde
Kerk and the Roman Catholic Church. The Anglicans and Methodists had a
combined Sunday School,5 and the denominations co-operated in other ways.
The congregations were largely white, and except for the NGK, they were
English-speaking.

THE ANGLICAN CHURCH


The Anglican Church had been in the district early, when it had been granted
land at KwaMagwaza by King Mpande. In the 1980s there was a church
(Good Shepherd), St Mary’s Hospital, the KwaNzimela Conference and
Training Centre, and the offices of the Zululand Churches Health and Welfare
Association (Zisizeni/Helwel). In 1981 the Convent of the Holy Name was also
built there (Hayes 1991:33).
The English-speaking congregation of All Saints Church, Melmoth, had
generally been served by priests from KwaMagwaza, but with the growth of
the town in the 1970s, it had its own priest, though the parish priest was
usually expected to perform diocesan training duties at KwaNzimela as well.

refused to use certificates with the word “Bantu” on them. The government department of
Bantu Administration and Development, however, would not register Christian denominations
unless they stated in their constitutions that they were “only for Bantu”.
4
I believe this was initiated by the Revd Richard Kraft of the Anglican Church (who later
became Bishop of Pretoria). It was supported by Fr Theodore, OB, of the Roman Catholic
Church, and the Revd John Rist of the Methodist Church, who was based in Eshowe. Richard
Kraft was Director of Christian Education for the Anglican Diocese of Zululand, and planned
and ran training courses at the KwaNzimela Conference Centre at KwaMagwaza, 10
kilometres from Melmoth.
5
Called a “church school”, since it actually met on Tuesday afternoons. Many children were
children of farmers, and so went there after school, and their parents would fetch them later.

3
From about 1974-1977 the Revd Richard Kraft was living in Melmoth (before
that he had lived at KwaMagwaza), and was rector of All Saints Church there,
as well as Director of Christian Education for the diocese of Zululand.
In 1977 Richard Kraft became Director of Christian Education for the Anglican
Church in southern Africa as a whole, and moved to Johannesburg. I moved
from Utrecht to replace him as rector of the parish, and Director of Training for
Ministry, responsible for training self-supporting clergy and for the post-
ordination training of church-supported clergy. Canon Peter Biyela became
Director of Christian Education, responsible for the lay training programmes,
though in most things we worked as a team.6
The Anglican Diocese of Zululand was divided into deaneries, which were
groups of parishes that worked together. Each deanery had a regional dean
and vice-dean, one of whom was a clergyman and the other a layman. In
1980-1981 the regional dean of the Mthonjaneni Deanery was the Revd
Hamilton Mbatha of the parish of the Good Shepherd, KwaMagwaza, and Mr
Morton du Preez, a layman of All Saints, Melmoth as the vice-dean.7 A
deanery council met three times a year, and the dean and vice dean
represented it on the Diocesan Council, which also met three times a year.

Anglican mission in Makhalafukwe


In September 1980 Africa Enterprise, an ecumenical evangelistic group based
in Pietermaritzburg, conducted mission and evangelistic outreach activities in
Melmoth and the surrounding areas at the invitation of the Mthonjaneni
Deanery of the Anglican diocese of Zululand. A wide range of activities was
planned in the parishes of the deanery, and the diocesan institutions,
including the hospital. The post-ordination training (POT) group met during
this mission, and other clergy and sisters of the Community of the Holy Name
were invited to attend as well. John Tooke, of Africa Enterprise, held
workshops at the KwaNzimela Centre, and the participants also took part on
other mission activities, in the Biyela Reserve, the hospital, and in Melmoth,
including Makhalafukwe.
The post-ordination training group was taught how to do an evangelistic
survey, and as a practical exercise, they undertook such a survey in
Makhalafukwe. The aim was not just to teach them how to conduct a survey,
but it was also hoped that the survey results would be useful to the parish and
the deanery in its ministry in Makhalafukwe in future.

6
The self-supporting ministry training took place one weekend a month at KwaNzimela, there
was also a 10-day meeting in January each year. The post-ordination training took place
monthly at KwaNzimela, and usually lasted three days, with the clergy arriving on a Monday
evening and leaving on Friday morning. It was compulsory for clergy for five years after their
ordination, though some continued to attend the meetings even after the five years had
passed. On special training course, other clergy would be invited to attend as well.
7
Morton du Preez had been brought up in the Dutch Reformed Church, though his wife was
Anglican. He joined the Anglican Church while in Melmoth, and was Director of Agricultural
Engineering in the KwaZulu Government, and so was one of those who commuted to Ulundi
to work.

4
EVANGELISM
After preparation and instructions, therefore, the POT group went to
Makhalafukwe on Tuesday 16 September 1980, armed with questionnaires, to
interview the inhabitants. They would also invite them to an evangelistic
service and a film show at All Saints Church a couple of days later.
On their return to KwaNzimela, the questionnaires were analysed, and the
interviewers discussed their experiences. One of the questions was to ask the
inhabitants what they saw as the main needs of their community. The
interviewers were also asked to write down the needs of the community as
they themselves saw them, so the needs were expressed both from the
insiders’ and the outsiders’ points of view.
The experiences of the POT group were mostly negative. They found the
inhabitants of Makhalafukwe were suspicious and unwelcoming, and some
were hostile. They were struck by the squalor and the apparent lack of
community in the place. They said that people did not know their neighbours,
and got the impression that they were suspicious of everyone, and not just the
interviewers.
One of the needs of the people living in Makhalafukwe, expressed by some of
the people themselves and confirmed by the survey teams, was for
entertainment. There was nothing to do there, apart from going to a couple of
shebeens. An evangelistic service was planned for Melmoth in an evening
later in the week, and it was decided to combine this with a film show, so that
at least some attempt could be made to meet the need for entertainment.
I travelled to Empangeni to hire a 16mm film, and, when only a few people
had arrived at the church, one of the post-ordination trainees, the Revd
Posselt Mngomezulu, walked down Hammar Street towards Makhalafukwe,
ringing a bell and shouting “Bioscope! Mahala!” That gathered a somewhat
larger audience. The film was called Vendetta and the audience, which
consisted mainly of children, seemed to appreciate it. At the end we asked the
people in the audience if they would like more film shows in future, and most
were in favour, so I arranged to make it a monthly event. I drove to
Empangeni to hire a feature film, and borrowing the 16 mm projector from the
KwaNzimela Conference centre.

ENTERTAINMENT AND COMMUNITY


For a few months film shows were held once a month in All Saints Hall. These
were sometimes feature films hired in Empangeni, and sometimes
educational, evangelistic or documentary films that were available at the
diocesan training centre at KwaNzimela.8
At All Saints Church, where the services had hitherto been only in English,
Zulu services began to be held on Sundays, though at first only 4-5 people
attended them. Weekday services were also held, where the language used
varied according to who was present, sometimes English, sometimes Zulu,
sometimes a mixture of both.

8
At that time videotape players were not common, and were very expensive. Later most of
the film hire shops converted into videotape hire shops, but at this time 16mm films were
more popular than videotapes, and were more suitable for showing to large audiences.

5
In October and November 1980 after the film shows there were training
meetings, using material developed by the Lumko Institute of the Roman
Catholic Church, and especially a course called Serving the neighbourhood.
The Revd Hamilton Mbatha and the Revd Peter Biyela helped to present
these, sometimes also assisted by Sister Lungisile of the Community of the
Holy Name, and by those attending the Post Ordination Training meetings.9
At these meetings a small group discussed the formation of a community
organisation, and I drew up a draft constitution for it. On 23 April 1981 a
bigger meeting was held. Everyone was asked to stay behind after the film
show, (the film shown was The promised land, which was on “blackspot”
removals) and about 30 people did stay. The Revd Peter Biyela chaired this
inaugural meeting. The draft constitution was presented, and accepted almost
unchanged. Edgar Biyela proposed that the organisation be called Iso loMuzi,
and this was accepted by the meeting. The meeting felt that there were not
enough people there to elect a permanent committee, so Edgar Biyela was
elected Provisional Chairman and Mandla Mdlalose provisional secretary. At
the end of the meeting another film was shown, one from World Vision, on
war orphans in Korea.
On 3 June 1981 the Iso loMuzi committee met and chose office bearers:
Zachary Mkhwanazi as Chairman, Edgar Biyela as Vice-Chairman, Bonisiwe
Ndlovu as Secretary and Cyril Ndlovu as Treasurer. It was decided to open a
bank account. On the following day there was a general open meeting, and 13
people paid their subscriptions.
On 21 August 1981 the Iso loMuzi committee sent a deputation to see the
new town clerk of Melmoth, Fanie Lombard. The deputation consisted of
Zachary Mkhwanazi, Bonisiwe Ndlovu, Mandla Mdlalose, Nason Dludla, the
Revd Peter Biyela and Stephen Hayes. The deputation presented the
problems in Makhalafukwe. The Town Clerk said that there were plans to
build better houses, and that the Port Natal Administration Board had
acquired land for the purpose, and this had been approved by Pretoria, and
they were just waiting for funds to become available. The committee asked
that something be done immediately to improve conditions in Makhalafukwe,
pending the erection of new houses. They mentioned particularly water
supply, toilets, rubbish removal and lighting.
The town clerk said that owing to the steepness of the ground and absence of
roads, the tractors and trailers that the town board used for rubbish collection
could not get into Makhalafukwe. He promised, however, to supply plastic
rubbish bags and send the tractors to the nearest point, if the residents would
pick up the rubbish and fill the bags. He also promised to see what could be
done about the other matters raised by the committee.
On 27 August 1981 another open meeting of Iso loMuzi was held. Zac
Mkhwanazi gave a report on the meeting with the town clerk, and his
response to the various issues that had been raised. There was some
discussion on wages, which people felt was the next most urgent issue after

9
The Convent of the Holy Name at KwaMagwaza, within the Mthonjaneni Deanery, was
officially opened on 9 May 1981, but some sisters were already living and working in the
deanery before then.

6
housing. The guest speaker for the evening was the Anglican Bishop
Lawrence Zulu, who was on a pastoral visit to the Mthonjaneni Deanery. He
said he himself had been born and bred in the district. After the meeting, the
bishop, the committee, and the Revd Hamilton Mbatha and the Revd Peter
Biyela went to the rectory for coffee, and informal discussions.
Within a few weeks a couple of street lights had been erected, and taps had
been installed for the residents, and the rubbish had been collected. It
appeared that the town clerk had taken the deputation’s requests seriously,
and had acted immediately to fulfil some of them.
On 21 October 1981 the Diocese of Zululand was holding a clergy school at
the diocesan training centre at KwaNzimela. It was led by John Tooke, who
had participated in the training meetings a year previously, when
Makhalafukwe was first visited by a group of clergy at a training meeting. As
part of the training at the clergy school, groups were sent to visit and conduct
surveys on Protest Farm, among the patients at St Mary’s Hospital, and in
Melmoth, including Makhalafukwe.
The clergy school was a much larger group, consisting of all the clergy of the
diocese (about 55 in all), but some of those who had been there the previous
year were among those who visited Makhalafukwe the second time, after not
having seen it since the previous year. When they returned to KwaMagwaza
they reported their amazement at the transformation that had taken place.
This time, they said, the residents were friendly, and not hostile. They proudly
pointed out the new street lights and taps, and the absence of rubbish. Those
who visited said that they could hardly believe that it was the same place that
they have visited a year before. Now it was a community. They met and spoke
to some of the same people that they had seen before, but their attitude had
been completely transformed.

The NTE Strike, 1981


Shortly before the Clergy School, there was a strike by workers at the Natal
Tanning Extract Company. These are my own observations on it: I write what
I saw, and heard from others.
The strike began on 12 October 1981. I became aware of it when I drove from
Melmoth to the Convent of the Holy Name at KwaMagwaza for an early
morning service. On the way there, as I went over a blind rise, I saw police
and a group of NTE workers standing on opposite sides of the road. I thought
it would have been very dangerous if a car had been coming the other way.
During the service, I heard groups of people singing down on the road, and
when I drove back to Melmoth afterwards there were about 70 NTE workers
going towards the town, wearing hard hats, and carrying sticks and cane
knives. They parted to let me through, and I drove on ahead, then on impulse
I stopped and reversed the car to ask the leaders where they were going, but
they just laughed and waved.
A little further on there were more NTE workers and police, and the number of
both had grown. I saw Warrant Officer Joubert, of the Melmoth police station,
and asked him if there was a problem, but he said there was none.

7
When I got to Melmoth I went to see Mr Victor Atherstone, who was in charge
of the NTE compound at Golden Reef at the entrance to the town. I asked him
what was going on, and why all the workers seemed to be converging on the
town. He said that they were coming to a meeting to discuss a pay rise that
they thought was inadequate. He said he himself had no authority in the
matter, and that management representatives were coming from the head
office in Pietermaritzburg to negotiate with the workers, and that was what the
meeting was about.
He also said that he had had some angry phone calls from local farmers,
some of whom wanted to know why he hadn’t called the police. I told him that
I had seen police on the road to KwaMagwaza, and he said that he had not
called them, and someone else must have. He said that one of the most
“hawkish” farmers was Donald Leitch, of C.A. Leitch & Sons, who ran a large
local poultry farm, Saxony, just outside Melmoth on the KwaMagwaza road.10
From my conversation with him I got the impression that he was caught in the
middle, between the workers, the management and the local farmers. As the
immediate and visible authority figure in NTE, the workers would blame him if
they did not get the wage increase they wanted. The management would
blame him if the workers were too insistent in their demands, and the other
farmers were already complaining that their workers would start demanding
wage increases too, as the action of Donald Leitch showed.
Later that afternoon I spoke to Ray Leitch (sister-in-law of Donald), who was
very concerned about the reaction of some of the local farmers, and their
ignorance about labour relations and their apparent belief that wage
negotiations should be handled by the police. She told me her husband Noel
was trying to arrange for someone from the Natal Agricultural Union to come
to speak to Melmoth farmers on the subject.
The following morning, Tuesday 13 October 1981, Irene Benwell, whose
husband Harry was manager of the bark factory, came to seem me in great
agitation. She said that she and her husband had stayed away from church
the previous Sunday because Mary and Charles Shaw, the wardens of the
KwaNzimela Centre, might be there, and they did not want to take communion
with them. There was a strike at the NTE bark factory, and she had been told,
by someone that she refused to name, that Charles Shaw had held a meeting
at KwaNzimela on Sunday to organise the strike. I said that that sounded just

10
The Leitch family was a large farming family in the Mthonjaneni district, and quite prominent
in local affairs. There were two brothers, Saxon and Alex. Saxon farmed beyond
KwaMagwaza, with his son Dudley, while Alex (who was also at one time chairman of the
Melmoth town board) and three of his sons, Donald, Graeme and Noel, lived and worked on
the poultry and cane farm closer to Melmoth, Saxony. A fourth son, Barry, lived away from the
place, and was regarded by most Melmoth whites as half-Zulu. He spoke Zulu fluently, and
kept cattle with various black people in different places, as was common in rural Zulu culture.
Donald was, as the conversation with Vic Atherstone indicates, conservative and inclined to
be racist. Noel, who ran the business side of the farm, was liberal, and had taken part in
protests and demonstrations against the government while a student in Cape Town. As a
student he had had a pet pig which he named Swanepoel, after “Rooi Rus” Swanepoel, a
high-ranking officer in the Security Police with a reputation for violence against detainees.
Noel Leitch’s wife Ray had been trained as a lawyer, though her practice in Melmoth was not
successful.

8
like the kind of rumour that the Security Police would propagate (a guess that
turned out to be accurate).
I phoned Charles Shaw, and asked him to come to the service at All Saints
that morning, and meet Irene Benwell, and try to sort out their differences and
be reconciled. It appeared that they were, and afterwards we went to have tea
at our house next to the church, where we were joined by the Revd Peter
Biyela, who had come to draw up the budget for the Christian Education
Department, though it got put aside because of the other topics of discussion.
Ray Leitch said that Irene Benwell had told her (which she had not told me)
that the Security Police had called Vic Atherstone and Harry Benwell together,
and had told them that the strike had been organised at a meeting at
KwaNzimela over the weekend, and that a Ms Clasens had been there.
Charles Shaw said that the Sweet, Food and Allied Workers Union had used
the centre for a meeting, and that a Ms Claasens had been connected with
the union, but they did not appear to have had any local members in Melmoth.
He said that perhaps they should not allow trade unions to hold meetings
there in future (Peter Biyela and I were members of the KwaNzimela Board). I
said that would not be a good idea, since the NTE management also used the
centre for staff training, and it would be one-sided if the church were to allow
the bosses to use the centre, but not the workers.
Ray Leitch said that whites in Melmoth were divided, some were in favour of
trade unions and others were not. I said that the principle of whether trade
unions were a good thing or not might continue to divide people, but that there
was another question that should not – the facts. It appeared that the
Benwells had been told a pack of lies by the Security Police, and they
appeared to believe these lies rather than the truth. It was important that that
matter be sorted out, and the facts established, so that the church
congregation should not be divided by lies.11

Twenty years later – in retrospect


In 1982 I left Melmoth and moved to what is now the city of Tshwane. I have
been back a few times, but have usually only been passing through, and so
have not maintained contact with most of the people who took part in these
events. I have seen the new houses that were built later. They were certainly
more substantial dwellings than the beer-carton and plastic sheet shacks of
Makhalafukwe, but even seen at a distance, there is something missing. The

11
These anecdotes not only throw some light on different responses among whites in
Melmoth to trade unions, but also on the mentality and role of the Security Police. It is said
that there are two broad theories of history: the Conspiracy Theory and the Cock-up Theory.
Those who hold the Conspiracy Theory might hold that the Security Police had orchestrated
the whole thing. The lies they told the Benwells were all carefully planned beforehand. I think
that in this case I prefer the Cock-up Theory. The Security Police did not really know what
was going on, but they themselves subscribed to a conspiracy theory of their own (one that
was later to be articulated by the Nationalist Government in the Total onslaught theory). For
them, a trade union holding a meeting on the weekend before a strike could not possibly be a
coincidence, but must be ipso facto evidence of a conspiracy. So what they told the Benwells
was not a carefully fabricated lie, but something they believed to be true as a result of their
own conspiracy theories. And if they were aware that it was false, it was just something that
they could use in an opportunistic way to sow dissension and strife.

9
new houses are far from All Saints Church and the church hall that functioned
as a community centre. I’ve not been closer to the new houses than viewing
them from the main road, but even from that distance, it seems that
something is lacking.
Looking back after 20 years, I think that my association with the people of
Makhalafukwe was one of the most significant things that happened to me in
my time in Melmoth. When I first became involved with it, I saw my role
primarily as a catalyst. If there was to be a community there, then the people
living there must discover the community. Peter Biyela took the same view,
and we worked together on this. Our aim was to conscientize the people and
enable them to build community for themselves.12 The Anglican Diocese of
Zululand had had quite a lot of experience in attempts at community
development. In the early 1970s they took the initiative in getting a community
development expert, Dr Milton Rosner, to conduct training for all the Zululand
Churches. The Zululand Diocesan Health and Welfare Association
(Helwel/Zisizeni) became ecumenical, and ran several projects in different
places. Both Peter Biyela and I had at one time or another served on Zisizeni
committees, and felt that it was top-heavy and bureaucratic. It had too many
paid full-time staff, and too much administration. We saw that its bureaucracy
could be disempowering to local communities.
We believed that people in places like Makhalafukwe could at least in some
respects take control of their own lives, and make decisions about matters
that affected their lives. So our main task in the wider community (wider than
Anglican church members, that is) was simply to bring people together to talk
about their problems. The materials we used for discussion, such as the
Lumko courses on Serving the neighbourhood gave input on the kind of things
that could be done, but it was as people began to talk to each other about
their problems that they began to come up with possible solutions.
Not all the solutions were within their reach, unaided. The erection of street
lights, and the provision of taps was done by the town board. But the
significant thing here is that it was done by the initiative of the people at
Makhalafukwe. The committee represented them to the town board, which
was the only body capable of doing public works on such a scale.
I am not sure about this, but I think that much of what the town board did was
probably beyond its jurisdiction. The settlement at Makhalafukwe was
unofficial and unrecognised. It was tolerated because black policemen who
did shift work had to be close enough to do their work. Others moved there
later, and were ignored by the town board, conveniently out of sight behind
the garage and the school.
When the people of Makhalafukwe organised themselves, they made their
presence known to the town clerk, as human faces. It seemed like the
beginning of a relationship that could be fruitful, if only the Port Natal
Administration Board and organs of the central government had stayed right
out of it. A visiting town planning expert, seeing Makhalafukwe, said it would
be better to transform the existing place than to try to move it elsewhere.

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My approach to this owed a great deal to Paolo Freire’s book, Pedagogy of the oppressed,
which I had read some 10 years before.

10
Under apartheid it was not possible to do this. The Port Natal Administration
Board, which was separate, remote and bureaucratic, had the power to build
houses elsewhere and did so.
In the Anglican parish, the white and black residents of Melmoth were just
beginning to know each other as members of the same church when the
people of Makhalafukwe were moved away.

LESSONS FOR THE RDP


I believe that what happened at Makhalafukwe in 1980-81 suggests some
lessons for reviving the Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP).
It is a pity that the RDP was abandoned so soon after the government (when
elected in 1994) had said it was “non-negotiable”.
The aim should not be for a government department to have the task of
overseeing reconstruction and development, but rather of acting as a catalyst,
and helping other groups, such as NGOs and churches to themselves
become catalysts in this process. Leaving it to the private (ie commercial)
sector does not develop community, and is not empowering. Whether it is
government bureaucrats or big business providing housing and services, the
ordinary people are disempowered. Much land reform, while seeking to rectify
past injustice, often creates new injustice in the present, as the only ones to
benefit from it in many places are absentee landlords.
But twenty years ago a small maginalised group in Makhalafukwe showed
that it is possible for people, in spite of circumstances, to become a
community and to take decisions about their own lives and circumstances,
decisions that make a difference.
Dr Stephen Hayes
Tshwane
2001-09-18
Revised: 2001-11-16, 2011-04-02
shayes@dunelm.org.uk
http://khanya.wordpress.com

Bibliography
Freire, Paolo. 1998. Pedagogy of the oppressed. New York: Continuum.
Hayes, Stephen. 1990. Black charismatic Anglicans. Pretoria: Unisa.
Shorten, Richard. 1987. The Legion of Christ’s Witnesses: change within the
Anglican Diocese of Zululand 1948-1984. Cape Town: University of
Cape Town, MA Dissertation.

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