‘We vie with cows for water’

2011-05-07 12:48

Gcilima, my beloved rural village on the south coast of KwaZulu-Natal, is in a beleaguered state. All I see in my birthplace is poverty, despondency, inadequate development and the horrors of HIV/Aids.

The young people here are crying out for development programmes to break the cycle of poverty that characterises this beautiful village.

Since the advent of democracy in 1994, the ruling party has failed to build a library, which young people say will go a long way towards helping them get better academic results.

Speaking to 200 young people this week, it was clear that all they want from the government of the day is good education and facilities that will make them productive citizens.

“We are killing our youth. Nothing has been done to improve their lives. It is very, very sad,” said one prominent community member and businessperson.

Out of hopelessness and in an attempt to escape (even if for a short while) their harsh reality, many young people have become slaves to alcohol.

Thanks to the booze, tottering teenagers are a frequent sight here.

Those based in areas such as Johannesburg and Durban find these alcohol-loving youngsters always ask them for money to feed their addictions.

Some young people told me that their peers turned to sex because there was nothing much to do.

The high unemployment rate meant that they had to find something to do.

Repeated warnings by the local clinic and government notwithstanding, many young people still engage in unprotected sex.

This leads to many teen pregnancies and the spread of HIV/Aids.

There are funerals almost every weekend as Aids continues to wreak havoc on the community.

Then there is the issue of the state of the main road in the village. We used to walk on this dusty road when I went to Phathwa High School. Despite many promises of a tar road, the road is still as dusty as ever.

A 19-year-old pupil at the local Mbambi High School summed it up this way: “I have been told that the tar road was coming since birth.

Where is it?”

But it seems there is some light at the end of the tunnel.

The tarring of the road is set to reach Gcilima in the near future.

The tarring process, which is handled by the provincial government, has currently reached the nearby village called Nkothaneni.

The road is so bad that cars, especially taxis, take a real pounding. As for children walking to and from schools, by the time they get to school they are covered in dust.

There is consensus, mainly among the youth, that the state of development is utterly unsatisfactory.

They blame the government.

“They will promise you heaven and earth, but in the end, nothing ever happens.

They are greedy and only care about their advancement,” said a teenager. Another said: “They love us during elections.

We always vote, but there is no improvement in our lives.”

They complain of the unreliable water supply. “We sometimes have to compete with frogs and cows for water in dams,” say Sandisile Khumalo and Phiwe Shazi.

There are claims that government houses are given to people on the basis of their political affiliation or connections to those in power.

Residents say that if there are projects up for grabs, those who get employment are families and friends of a councillor.

But outgoing ward 7 councillor Derrick Shusha is of the view that he has done pretty well for the past 10 years in charge of the developmental matters in the community.

“The allegations of nepotism and favouritism are not true at all.”

He admitted that he had failed to tackle the “important” challenge of constructing a library, but he pointed out that Gcilima now had a community hall (only completed last year and residents say it’s useless) and an information centre.

He said it was time to step down and give others an opportunity to improve the lives of the residents.

Youngsters have decided to take matters into their own hands.

They have started a revolution for change.

They want 29-year-old S’thembiso Lushaba to take over the reins from Shusha. Lushaba is also the community’s preferred councillor candidate for the May 18 local government elections.

It’s crystal clear that the community is hungry for real development.

Here in Gcilima, residents are sick and tired of unfulfilled promises.

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