Nguni Matroos

Nguni is 73 years old. He has lived in an around Tsitsikama his whole life. He has only one arm, but rides a bicycle, pushes a wheelbarrow and digs with a spade. He is an inspiration. I struggle to communicate with him, my Xhosa is bad, his English is bad. We settle on Afrikaans, which is second language to both of us. Nguni, has taught us a lot about the land and how things work, We are indebted to him.

(Edit 11 May 2014 – Nguni has since died. He was husband to Nomathemba who is a cousin to my wife’s mother. It was Nomathemba and Matross, who we would go visit when we first began to take my mother-in-law down to Tsitsikama. Its a long story actually. My mother-in-law grew up in Tsitsikama on the Mfengu land there. Land that had been granted to the Amamfengu about 150 years ago in return for loyalty to the British through the 100 year frontier wars. The AmaMfengu were then removed from their land in the 1970’s by the apartheid system. In the 1990’s they were allowed to return and Hlubi and I have been spending some time assisting Hlubi’s mother to stake her claim to her portion the returned land. Our campaign has been successful and Hlubi’s mother now has her own house on the form “Wittekleibos” and has access to communal lands.

From the stories I have been told, however, it seems the land before the removal in the 1970’s was very productively farmed. Now people have returned, but it seems the whole fabric and “memory” that held them together and cased them to be a functioning economy has not survived the disruption and dislocation.

Author: Tim Hewitt-Coleman

The World can be a better place.... But how? Taking the debate beyond the political, beyond the theoretical into the real economy, into the physical and spatial dimension where cities, landscapes and livelihoods take form.

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