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February 15, 2007

STRATEGY: Mzamba community

We visited a rural SDI (Shack Dwellers Int’l) project on the border between the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu Natal. The Mzamba community is fighting for their land. In a typical apartheid situation, their land was stolen and sold to a casino (which was illegal in South Africa, but the black “homelands” were not considered to be South Africa). Now, post-apartheid, the community’s land was returned to them, but with the casino still under lease for 50 years. And to make matters worse, the community is being charged the millions of dollars to pay for the casino’s “improvements” to the land. So they have been fighting a tricky land claim dispute for the last 13 years.

The situation is crazy: in order for the community to access their land, they have to go through the lavish gates of the casino and drive through the resort and golf course to another gate into “their part” of the land.

We met two of the ‘changemakers’ of the community: Mkuanda and Elias. They have been fighting for their traditional land for years, and at the same time have been working on other ways to bring income and empowerment back to the community. They have partnered with SDI to participate in community exchanges to create a vision for how to use their land once they get it back (land claims post-apartheid are common here). And they started Mzamba Tours, where they give tours to tourists (from the resort and nearby town) through their stunning land and traditional village.

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