Abandoned Swaziland’s Bulembu revived

2012-03-23 08:59
Bulembu - In reviving Bulembu, a Swazi town abandoned a decade ago when its asbestos mine closed, the new town fathers are helping hundreds of orphans and building their own utopia in the process.

Bulembu is a private town, owned by a Canadian evangelical Christian charity - called Bulembu Ministries - and stretching over 1 700 hectares. Only the police station and the road leading to South Africa remain public land.

Their goal is to survive self-sufficiently, like a "Christian kolkhoz" in the mountains of this tiny kingdom. They run a sawmill, a dairy, a bakery, crafts and even bee-keeping.

The goal of self-sufficiency is as important as helping the orphans, said Andrew Le Roux, who runs the charity.

The dirt road connecting Bulembu to the rest of Swaziland is so bad that the postal service doesn't even bother trying. South Africa is 2km away, on a paved but winding road.

And that route requires a border crossing, which doesn't handle merchandise and closes at 16:00.

Once 10 000 people lived in the mining town, which boasted a cinema, sports grounds, a supermarket, several grocers, a bank, a post office, golf, bars, a brewery and two churches.

Now the town's 1 400 residents have just one small grocery store selling essential goods, and a community bakery. They can choose from seven churches.

There's no alcohol, either at the guesthouse or on the grocery store shelves. The bars never re-opened in this town, whose official motto is "serving Jesus Christ by restoring hope to the people of Swaziland".

Unemployment, at 40% in Swaziland, is almost non-existent in Bulembu, where anyone with a job is given a house.

The sawmill or dairy workers don't necessarily subscribe to the same ideals, but desperate for work, they accept their pious surroundings. And sometimes they sip from their own homemade beer.

The children receive a religious education at the Christian Academy of Bulembu.

In a nation ravaged by Aids, the youth are taught abstinence. Sex is banned for as long as children live at the orphanage, but they're still told about condoms, the teachers say.

Read more on:    swaziland  |  southern africa
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