Fighting the magwaza – together

Umbulwane is a small farm near Ladysmith in Natal. Until 1980 Joseph Mkwanazi lived there with his family. They were a poor family.

Joseph didn’t own any land. But the rent was low. They kept some cows and chickens. And Joseph had a job in Ladysmith. The farm was not far from town. So Joseph walked to work everyday.

Life was hard. But the family lived peacefully – until June 1980. In that month white men in trucks arrived at Umbulwane. They painted numbers on the doors of all the houses. Then they left.

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People know the numbers on the door mean trouble

The people of Umbulwane were worried. They knew the numbers were trouble. And they were right. Five months later the white men came back. They came with six vans full of police and guns. And they also came with a bulldozer – the machine that people call “Magwaza”.

On that day Joseph Mkwanazi was at work. So he didn’t see the Magwaza smash h is house down.

“They did not give us a word of warning,” says Mr Mkwanazi. “My wife was outside collecting fire­ wood. Our three year old baby was inside. They took her outside and she ran away.

“I came home and found my house broken down. All my tools were broken. They left me with only one room. Then they came back later to break down everything.”

Joseph Mkwanazi was not the only one who lost his horne. On that day the government knocked down the houses of many people at Umbulwane.

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Shacks and tin toilets – the kind of place people are moved to

In 1978 they did the same at another farm nearby. This farm is called Steencoalspruit. They also broke down houses and moved people from their land.

The people from Umbulwane and Steencoalspruit are’ -not the only people who have suffered. Since 1963, the government has pushed over 323 thousand people off the land. They said the people were living in “black spots” – and so they sent them off to the homelands. When the people did not want to move, they sent bulldozers and police.

Now they want to move even more people. Today over 100 thousand people are still living in “black spots” in the Ladysmith area. Their families have lived for over 100 years at places like Matiwaneskop, Driefontein, Ndonyane, Jononoskop, Umbulwane, Balderskraal and Steen­coalspruit.

At most of these places the numbers are already painted on the houses. The people are waiting for the Magwaza to come.

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Members of the new organisation

But they will not move easily. In March 1984 the leaders from all these areas had a meeting. They got together to talk about ways to fight back.

They decided to start a new organi­zation. In the organization the people will fight together to stay on their land. For the first time people from all the “black spots” In the Ladysmith area are standing together in their struggle.

Learn and Teach spoke to people from the new organization. They explained why the new organization is so important.

“First everyone must stand together,” said one person. “The landowners and the tenants must stand together. The government likes landowners and tenants to fight each other. This is the government’s biggest weapon when they move people.

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“Our ancestors are buried here – we will not move”

For this reason we want tenants and landowners to fight together in one organization.”

“All the black spots must join the organization to fight for their land,” said another person. “It is easy for the government to move people one by one. But if we stand together they will be in for a surprise.”

“The government has got a big whip,” says Chief Zikalala. He is the leader of the people from Driefontein. “But before they beat us they must hit hard. We will fight with all our strength. Our people will die before they move.”


After the flood

For a long time, people in South Africa have waited for rain. The land is dry and cracked. People cannot grow anything. And their animals are dying a slow, painful death.

At the end of January, the people in Natal, Swaziland and Mozambique got rain. It came and came and came. It didn’t stop.

Strong winds and heavy rain hit the dry land. Soon the rivers were too full. Water flooded the land and many people died.

Many people lost their houses. Roads and bridges were broken. The people lost nearly everything before the rain. But after the rain, they had nothing left.

Created by Readiris, Copyright IRIS 2005Philemon Myeni comes from the part of Natal that was hit by the storm. He was not there when the rain came. But his family was there.

Philemon has not heard from his family. He is very worried. He waits and waits. The days pass slowly and painfully. He told us his story:

“l was born in the village of Bhamganoma near Mkuze. It is a country place and the land is good. We keep animals. We plough along the Mkuze river. We grow mealies, corn, small beans and mbumba. The river is fu II of fish and good for swimming.

A few years ago I fell in love. wanted to marry Elizabeth. I needed R 120 for lobola. So I worked in a bakery in Mkuze for R40 a month. I paid the lobola after a few months.

“I lived in Bharnqanorna with my wife Elizabeth Ntombithini and our children. Their names are Bhekuyise, Tholakele, Ndukuzakhe. My grandmother, my mother and my sisters also live there. And so do my two brothers, Joseph and Elias.

There is no money in Bharnqanorna. So some of the family must go and work in the cities. Joseph and Elias went to work in the city.

But then Elias lost his job. The family had a meeting. “Elias has worked hard for a long time in the city,” they said. “It is time for him to come home and be with us again.” Now it was my turn to get a job in the city. I had to leave my new wife.

I felt strange. I was frightened and also excited. And for the first time in my life, I felt lonely. The time went as fast as a Putco bus. Too soon it was the day for me to leave.

My wife and children came to say goodbye. They were happy because I was going to fetch money. They smiled and waved. That was the last time I saw them.

I came to Durban and got a place in the Kwa-Mashu hostel. My brother Joseph and other friends were there. I got a job at the animal hospital. That’s a place that looks after sick animals.

They paid me R 100 a month. I sent R40 a month home. I felt happy and proud. My job was to clean the offices for the whites. I also made them tea and fed the animals.

I missed my family. And I didn’t like sharing a small room with four other men. But I was not unhappy. Sometimes we went and watched soccer on Saturdays.

Sometimes we went to the city. We walked the streets and looked In shop windows.
Slowly I was learning the ways of the city. Sometimes people from our village came to the hostel. They brought the news. When people went home, I gave them money for the family. We do not use letters. We cannot write.

One night in January this year my whole life changed. I was sitting in the room at the hostel. All five of us were there. We were talking and cooking. The radio was playing. I was fixing my shoes. Suddenly I heard over the radio the name of our village – Bhamganoma. My hands stopped working. Everybody stopped talking.

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Many people lost their houses

The voice from the radio said a storm hit our village. The voice said people died in our village. I could not speak. My body was hot, then cold. Then I knew I must go home.

I went to work the next morning. I went to see my boss. We call him “Zibukwane”. This means “Spectacles” in English. I told him what happened at Bhamganoma. I told him I was scared that my family was dead.

“Spectacles” got angry when he heard my troubles. Maybe he could not understand because my English is not so good. “It’s nothing to do with us,” he said. “I don’t really care. If you want to leave, then leave. But don’t come back.”

Then Spectacles paid me R30 and told me to go away. I asked for my blue card. I did not get it. I asked for my notice pay. I did not get it.

I stood there looking at Spectacles. He looks after animals. But he doesn’t want to look after people. Maybe he only likes animals. Then I walked away from him.

We hired a car with the R30. We took messages and money from many people. We travelled north to Bhamganoma. The roads were full of dirt and stones. Sometimes we had to move broken trees out of the road.

When we got to the Umfolozi river, we stopped and looked. The bridge over the river was broken. We just sat there in the car. We looked at the broken bridge. And we watched the brown, muddy water of the Umfolozi.

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Many bridges were broken

Nobody spoke. We knew we could not get home. Then we slowly turned the car around. We drove back to the Kwa-Mashu hostel.

I heard that all the bridges were broken. People from the village coutd not bring any news about my family. I felt helpless and alone.

Created by Readiris, Copyright IRIS 2005For the first time, I wished I knew how to read and write. I wanted to send a letter home. And I wished someone at home could write to me.

I had no money left. I could not pay the hostel rent. So I left the hostel. I went to stay with a friend.

My troubles made me feel sick. I walked to the city. I did not know what to do. I just started talking to strangers. Then I spoke to a middle aged woman. I told her how I got fired. And I told her about my problems at home.

This woman listened. Then she said she could help. She told me of an organization that helps workers. She said the organization could help me.

I went to this place. It is called the African Workers Association. They took me to a lawyer. The lawyer listened to my story and sent a letter to the animal hospital. So now I wait to hear from the lawyer.

I have not gone home yet. People say that all of my family are dead.

But I do not know. At night I dream of angels and brown water. Maybe the angels are my children. As soon as I have enough money, I will go home. I haven’t seen my wife for two years. I must know If she is alive or dead. I want to go home.”

English – read the story

Ethekwini – the city of the sea. This is Durban, a place of holidays and sun. For some. But for many others, it’s not that much fun.

Take the stevedores – the guys who work down at the docks. These are the guys they call “lnyathi” or the “Buffalo”. Like the buffalo, they are strong and proud. And like the buffalo, they fight all their battles together.

They start work at six in the morning. They work deep down in the ships ­ ships bigger than factories. And there they sweat – packing and unpacking sugar, mealie meal, coal, asbestos and heavy rolls of paper.

“It’s very, very hard work,” says Mr Zulu. He came to work at the docks 12 years ago. And Mr Zulu knows all about hard work. Before he came to the docks, he cut cane in the sugar fields.

“The work hurts you r body,” says Mr Zulu. “And on top of that, you feel the salt on your body from the sweat. If you work with rolls of paper in the day, you feel the pain in your body at night.”

The stevedores work in groups. Sometimes four work together, sometimes six. After eight hours, they are tired and hungry.


1) What’s the english nome for Ethekwini?

2) When do the slevedores start work?

3) Where do stevedores work?

4) How long has Mr Zulu been working at the docks?

5) Do stevedores work alone or in groups?

Letters from our readers

Dear Learn and Teach
I would like to get more information about Learn and Teach. My brothers and sisters are worrying me. They saw me reading Learn and Teach number 4 with the story about Rivonia. I read this maqa zine until the tears ran down my face. That’s why I want more information. I would like to teach others as I learn. How can I get many magazines from you for my brothers and sisters?
Victor Nousa

Dear Learn and Teach
I am a young man of tweny two. I started reading Learn and Teach from the first issue. I find it very helpful. But most people cannot get the magazine in our area. So I want to help get the magazine to our people . especially those in the factories. Please send me more information.
Prince Matome

Thanks for the letters guys. Here is the information you want. We will send you 50 magazines to start with. Then please sell them for 30c each. When you finish selling them, then please send half the money. You can keep the other half for yourself. Maybe next time you will want to sell more than 50 magazines. Then just write to us and tell us how many you need. Good luck. -editor

Dear Learn and Teach
I am now a Learn and Teach reader. I did not know about this lovely magazine. But then one day I was walking along a toot­ path. The grass was burning. And the magazine was lying down there burning. I picked it up. I read about Putco bus drivers and the machine they call Madurne­ lana. Learn and Teach really shows us things that are hidden away. Please send me the magazine every month.
Aaron Masa ngo

We are glad you like our “hot” little magazine. Please send us a postal order for R4.00. Then we will send you the next eight magazines for a year. -editor

Dear Learn and Teach
I always read your magazine. I read about the National Union of Mineworkers. But I don’t know where the NUM offices are. I want to join this union. Can you please tell me how to do this.

Please write to the NUM office in Johan­nesburg. Give them your address. They will send an organizer to see you. Or they will send you forms to join the union. Their address is: National Union of Mineworkers P.O. Box 10928 JOHANNESBURG, 2000. Good Luck. -editor

Dear Learn and Teach
I read your story about bus drivers. Now let me tell you one thing. Some bus drivers are good but some are bad.
There is one bus driver from my area in the Vaal. Man you won’t believe the way he behaves. People even gave him the name “Matha Fatshe Sefebe”. This is what he calls women who get in the bus with 60c when they must pay 55c.

Dear Learn and Teach
Please help me. I am a student at a technical college. My home is at Kwa Ndengezi near Pinetown. My younger brother lives at home. When he was twelve he had a car accident. H is right arm was badly injured and he is paralysed. My parents want him to go to school. But he cannot write like the other kids. He can only write very slowly. Can you tell us of a school he can go to. He always cries when he sees the other kids going to school.
Patrick Sishi

Thanks for your letter Patrick. Sorry to hear about your brother. There is a place that might help. The address is Dr. Lips, c/o St Annes Hospital P.O. Box 44, Isipingo Rail, 4110, Telephone: (031) 97·1250. They have a boarding school at the hospi­ tal. It is full this year. But please write to them. They might have a place for him next year. Good luck and say “Heyta” to your brother from us. -editor



Dear Learn and Teach
Something in my heart tells me I am in love. The woman is a good friend of mine and she is very beautiful. But I have a problem. I don’t know how to tell her about my love for her. What do you think I should do?
Leho N.

Thanks for your letter. It’s quite hard to answer your letter because I never have that problem – beautiful women always tell me how much they love me. But I asked some people for their ideas. Some say you must take your friend for a slow walk under a full moon. Others say you must stand outside her place – and make noises like cats do. Some say you must walk up to her, breathe in deeply, and in your sweetest and most loving voice say. “I love you”. And then others say. “Just be yourself and what will be, will be”. Let us know what happens. -editor

Dear Learn and Teach
I got a shock when I heard that our lovely, little magazine was banned last month (No. 4, 1984). Can you please tell us readers what we must do with the magazine. Must we throw it away, burn it, or take it back to the shop?
A regular reader

Thank you for your letter. The magazine was banned for “distribution” and not for “possession”. So in other words, people can keep the magazine – but they can’t sell it or give it away. We are making an appeal against the banning – and hopefully we will win. -editor

Dear Learn and Teach
I like your magazine. It helps me a lot. I was bad in English. Now I am clever.
Now my point is this. I want you to put my picture in your magazine. What can I do to get on the front cover?

Thanks for your letter. We are happy to hear the magazine is helping you with your English. We are sorry but we can’t put your picture on the cover. This does not mean that you don’t have a great face. We must use pictures on the cover that say some­ thing about the stories in the magazine. -editor

Dear Learn and Teach
I read your magazine about bus drivers in Learn -and Teach number 3. I agree with Mr Ndwandwe. I see no reason to blame bus drivers for bad things on the buses. Bus drivers are workers. They do not own the buses. These bus drivers also have children and wives. They must also pay rent. They are trying to avoid starvation. I think people must not have bad manners when they board the bus. Then maybe all bus drivers will be good like Mr Ndandwe.
B.S. Buthelezi

Dear Learn and Teach
Please put this letter in your magazine. I have a problem – I can’t talk English very well. Now I ask people with the same problem to come forward. Then we can start a study group. I want to hear from people who can read and write English quite well – but who feel shy when they must talk English to others. I n the group we can talk English- to each other. And maybe Learn and Teach can send some­ body to help us. If people want to meet me, they ca n fi nd me at 304A Lebogang Street, Zone 1, Diepkloof. They must ask for Happy Letsholo.
Happy Letsholo

Nice idea, Happy. If you do start a group give us a call or write us a letter. I’m sure we can help you. All the best. -editor

Dear Learn and Teach
I am an 18 year old boy. I have a problem I want to become a disco – dancer. I broke the record in all the zones of my township by dancing like John Travolta last year.
I practice dancing at home next to my tape recorder. But people say, “Why don’t you go to Johannesburg?” So I said, “Well I’ll write to Learn and Teach. They will tell me what to do.”
Phuthuma Nthongana

You are in luck. We didn’t know how to help you. Then right now our friend So so from Soweto walked in. She says she knows of a new dance school in Soweto. She said she will give us the forms. Then we’ll send them to you. In the meantime, keep on dancing and reading Learn and Teach. -editor

Bald is beautiful

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Bullethead, Bleskop, Mpandlana, Snowtop, Samora Machel . . . .. People have many names for bald people like me. But, as my grandmother always used to say, only the jealous call you names. After all, God only made so many perfect heads – the rest he covered with hair.

Nobody really knows why us perfect heads lose our grass on top. Some people say you lose your hair if a calf licks you on the head when you are still young. Other people say you lose your hair if God touches you on the head with his finger. Maybe.

But let me tell you a much easier way. Just join Learn and Teach. And before you can say “Bald is Beautiful”, you will be one of us.

If you don’t believe me, come and have a look for yourself. But if you don’t have a perfect head, pull your hat tight over your ears. And try not to breathe in the air.

Let’s start at the top with the president of the Perfect Heads Asso­ciation. People call him Mr Hot Seat. He is the president because he has the most perfect of perfect heads.

Old Mr Hot Seat has a bit of a problem. His wife thinks he looks better and younger if he also has no beard and nothing on the side of his head. So don’t visit our president after eight o’clock in the evening. He will be fast asleep. He needs to get up early – so he can shave from one side of his head to the other.

And then we have the artists, Mohau and Stephen. They are still junior members of the club – not because they have much left on top, but because they still aren’t used to the idea. They still try to hide it. They will try all types of tricks. For example, Mohau tries to make people remember his feet instead of his head. He often doesn’t wear socks.

And Stephen and his dog Bozo share a little something each evening – a Bob Martins dog tablet. Bozo has a nice shiny coat and Stephen thinks he has the same. But let me give you a warning. Don’t stand too close to Stephen. He may think you are a tree.

And then we have the writers on the magazine. Two are loyal and senior members. First, we have the one we lovingly call “the little ox”. He is very special. I bet you’ve never seen a bald ox before! (Maybe too many calves licked him when he was young.)

An then we have the one we call The Shark. He has plenty of hair – except on his head. Ever seen a bald, hairy shark?

The third writer is not yet a member of the Perfect Heads Association. And he laughs when we tell him about the dangers of breathing Learn and Teach air. I wonder if his good friend Brenda knows about this?

And so to our motto: “BALD IS BEAUTIFUL”. If you don’t believe it, come and have a look for yourself. But don’t forget to come early. There’s always a queue.