Yesterday on Thursday 2 May, the Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing organised a Ministerial Imbizo in Sigidi village in Xolobeni area (Umgungundlovu on the Wild Coast).
The mass meeting proceeded in excellent atmosphere. Not one single SAPS officer was present. The contrast was striking to Minerals Minister Gwede Mantashe’s two chaotic visits in Xolobeni in September and January. Meetings he sealed off with 100 police, “Tactical Response Team” units, horses and dogs and ended by firing stun grenades.
We invite who ever it concerns to reflect on this difference.
Sibusiso Mqadi from ACC spoke of the agriculture and tourism plan that the community wishes the government to support. The Agricultural Research Council explained its role and how it can help the community, for example by testing the soil. Mr Thwesha Silangwe from Mbonowethu Business Chamber in inland Amadiba explained why the works on the Mtentu N2 Bridge still remains blocked by the Jama village and what the dangers are of development from above, and of lies and of empty promises.
Ten other community members also made short comments and posed difficult questions. Minister Senzeli Zokwana as the last speaker then commented on all concerns and the suggestions for practical support. He ended by promising action as opposed to talking.
Among these is support for community owned tractors, coastal guards to stop boats coming from afar to steal fish and help with direct marketing of cray fish. The coastal households lose tens of thousands of rand every year to middle men when renting tractors and selling cray fish.
600 attended this mass meeting on short notice. The hurry was prompted by the elections. It was planned on Friday last week with Minister Senzeli Zokwana, when he also could witness two trucks with sweet potatoes driving off from Sigidi to Durban’s fresh produce market.
The Vote of Thanks was made by the Umgungundlovu Headwoman’s secretary, Ms ‘Lolo’ Mhlengana.
The agreement with Minister Zokwana, consolidated at this Ministerial Imbizo is to make Xolobeni into a hub, where we produce, process and pack agriculture and fishery products.
Tourism and agriculture is what can and should co-exist in Xolobeni. The boom for agriculture in the whole of Amadiba, inland and coastal, can also supply the new tourist lodges planned for this part of the Wild Coast
We hope that the new Cabinet will take these agreements and this positive political development further.
Other fishing and farming communities in Pondoland and elsewhere deserve the same support. We have the right to organise and choose our own development path.