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News - Date: 12 August 2011
Written by: Elmon Tshikhudo / Viewed: 4335
When Pres Jacob Zuma identified Muyexe Village in the Giyani area as a pilot project for rural development two years ago, that was to change the face of that little rural village, arguably the poorest village in South Africa.
This paper was priviledged to be part of the opening excitement in 2009. Since then, a lot has happened in the village.
On Friday, 5 August, Limpopo Mirror visited the village to find out how things have progressed since the introduction of the Comprehensive Rural Development programme, as it has been dubbed.
The man who broke the ice about the state of the village is school teacher John Mahosi, who heads a brick-making project, Wasanti U wa a pfuka. "We were just a Bethlehem, but we have been transformed into Eden,” says Mahosi.
He says besides the scarcity of water, the government has done so much for the community, which used to be sleepy and hungry but is now a hive of activity. Mahosi says his factory was one of those which were formed when the president said each and every household in Muyexe must have a working person.
“We are able to make 800 bricks a day and all members of the project are able to get some food on the table for their families,” he says. But there has been a problem: a machine worth R400 000 brought in May this year was stolen a few weeks after being sent to the project.
He says projects have mushroomed in the village and the mindset of the people has changed; everybody seems to be in the mood to work. One of the first things the president set out to do was to make sure that every household had a fence and a mini-garden to satisfy the government’s plans of food security. But the area is dry, and there is nothing in most of the households.
This is because of the scarcity of water. One local woman has talked about the main problem. “We hire donkey carts to ferry water for us and we pay R2 for a 25-litre container,” says Cecilia Maswanganyi, middle aged and a mother of one. She says most of the jobs are piece jobs which are only for a few weeks or a few months. She herself cannot work as she is old and has a problem with one of her hands.
She says there are several projects running in the village. “There are water tanks in each village - sometimes two at one household and in some cases one - and those are to be used for houses with corrugated roofs. The water is supposed to spill into the tanks and they don´t work with grass huts. But since there has been no rain, the tanks are dry,” says Maswanganyi.
She also laments the fact that there are no paved streets. “When it rains, even the bus is not able to get into the village as the road gets soaked,” she says. However, despite the lack of water the life in the village has improved drastically. “There is a post office and a police station. Most of the services which were supposed to be done in Giyani, which is very far, can be accessed here at home,” she says.
Maswanganyi has a small garden at home and food security is guaranteed. “This is because I have an RDP house, and when it rains, water fills the tanks,” she says.
Mirror also visited Macena Project, which is possibly the most famous of the Muyexe projects. This is the project which the president visited and promised a tractor at the time he launched the whole comprehensive rural development programme. After two years, they are still waiting for the tractor...
“We have been told it is now in Giyani and will reach us soon,” said Maria Ngobeni Sithole, one of the leaders of the project that plants tomatoes, cabbages, spinach and other vegetables. She said the government had bought a water pumping machine, but the motor had been damaged. “The person who knows how to fix it has had his services discontinued by the rural development department,” she said.
The project also has a problem with marketing. “We only sell to Spar in Giyani, and we do not have many more outlets to sell our vegetables to,” she said. She said some clients from the other side of the border in Mozambique had promised to come and buy from them. “We have a short time left to harvest our latest tomato crop. Maybe these people will come and support us, so that we have a steady income,” she said.
She said because of the marketing problem, they did not get enough money to pay each other every month. They receive vegetables from the project, however, and this ensures that they do not go hungry. Their families also benefit from what they bring back home. “The government has done its part, but if they could help us to market our products, it would be better for us,” said Sithole. She said because there were no immediate spin-offs from the project, it was not able to attract young people.
“We are only elderly people here. We were initially only females, but the situation has changed since some of our members decided to go and rest and were replaced by men. We have a few young women and three men here,” she said.
When one drives around Muyexe these days, one sees that there are toilets in all households, built by the government. One is also greeted by a number of RDP houses. Initially, 300 houses were earmarked for the village, but more than 350 have already been built. There is also a crèche, built by the government.
The local traditional leader, Ben Muyexe, hailed what the government had done for his people. He says he is lucky because everything happens during his time. “If one of the people who lived in the area five years ago were to see the village now, they would think they are lost,” says Muyexe. He feels the RDP houses as well as the toilets have given the area a new look.
He says he is satisfied that most of the projects are giving his people jobs, “but the water issue is a serious one.”
Life in the village may have changed for the better, but the promised Canaan is still far. Many are not working as the promised work is only for a short time. Some work for month or two and are laid off when a project is complete. Those who have already benefitted from the programme have to give way to a new batch and this is done on a rotational basis. Only a few youths have benefitted from permanent government departmental jobs, more especially from the security sector.
It remains to be seen if all the millions pumped into the project will be put to good use...
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Elmon Tshikhudo started off as a photographer. He developed an interest in writing and started submitting articles to local as well as national publications. He became part of the Limpopo Mirror family in 2005 and has since been a familiar name among the newspaper's readers.
muyexe village, poverty, rural development, giyani