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KZN floods victims living in halls: Sangomas cannot burn mpepho, babies crying at all hours

KwaZulu Natal flood victims who stay at Mbalenhle Hall in uMlazi G Section, waiting for an all night prayer to start. Picture: Nelisiwe Magwaza

By Nelisiwe Magwaza

It’s been almost two months since heavy rains killed at least 435 people and destroyed over 4000 homes in some parts of KwaZulu Natal. Some who lost their houses are still living in the halls where they fled for safety immediately after their homes were destroyed. In Umlazi G section, South of Durban, 150 residents whose homes were destroyed have taken refuge at the Mbalenhle Hall.

Sizakele Ngubane, a 34 -year- old woman, is at the hall with her 2 -year-old son Akhumuzi Ngubane. She is also a traditional healer and says living in the hall as someone with a calling has been torture. She doesn’t have an isgodlo (traditional house) or privacy to communicate with her ancestors.

“I don’t have privacy for amakhosi (ancestors). I can't even burn impepho (a herb) because we from different families. There are so many different spirits here. I can’t speak to my ancestors.”

She said at times she feels physically ill, because she has not been talking to her ancestors.

As if that was not enough to deal with, she said as a single mother, she is finding it hard to leave her child with strangers when she has to go out looking for work.

“I am up to start looking job now so that I can get out of here. People always complain about what Akhumuzi (her two-year-old-son) did. Living with a child here is stressing. I need freedom for me and my son,” Ngubane said.

The Mlambo family (with five members) who also have been in the hall since April are not happy with the life they are living in hall.

Gogo Mlambo, a 65-year-old pensioner, is in the hall with her four grandchildren aged between one and 19 years old. The family lost their six-room house during the flood and now have to share a hall with at least 150 people. Gogo Mhlabo is worried that if she died in the hall, she might not be able to see heaven, her spirit might go to a dark place.

Thirty-four- year-old, Jabulani Mkhize, said he desperately wants to go back to “normal life”.

“I can't continue with this life. Sometimes, in the middle of night, you hear a baby crying and the mother of the child is shouting. It's new all these things to me.”

Nokwanda Jili (41) said she lost everything including clothes, identity documents, and a social grant card in the floods. She said she wants her life back.

“I miss being home, I miss my own space, the food I cooked and wearing a gown the whole day.”

The Department of Human Settlement in the province has promised to provide temporary houses for people who live in Mbalenhle hall within three months.


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