Nkosi Douglas Zondo is the local chief in the remote rural Swart Mfolozi District near Vryheid in Kwazulu-Natal. The term Nkosi is a Zulu term of respect used to address a chief of the local community, a hereditary position handed down from father to son – an honourable position. A Nkosi is responsible for the well-being of the community, assisting where possible and also acting as an arbitrator in disputes within the community.
“I have two sons who are both qualified Civil Engineers and studied at the University of KZN in Pietermaritzburg. They work at their jobs but are starting to take responsibility within the community. My eldest son will take my place as Nkosi in the future.”
In 2009, Nkosi Zondo bought an undeveloped farming property from commercial farmers in the area. At the time, the farms were bushveld and had only been used for grazing. The four farms together have a total size of 15 000ha.
Welgevonden has been developed for citrus planting, and currently has 60ha of Eureka seeded lemons. The soil ridging and irrigation have been prepared for a further 40ha of trees which are on order for planting within the next few years. In addition, the farm produces butternuts, cabbages and irrigated wheat produced with irrigation pivots. There is currently 18ha of cabbages in production on the farm. In order to develop the farm to this point Nkosi Zondo has secured a loan from Ithala Bank, and has also received assistance from the KZN Department of Agriculture.
This considerable farming operation is one of the biggest providers of employment in the area. The farm has 67 permanent workers, all local people who live in the area and are able to walk to work. Female farm workers explain that the project has been a great help to them and their families, as for many of them this job is their only form of income.
“Our income helps feed our families and send our children to school. Nkosi Zondo is like a parent to us – a blessing to our community.” Thobile Dlamini
“We really appreciate what Nkosi Zondo has done for us. These trees will provide employment for many years to come.” Ntombi Mbatha.
Nkosi Zondi stressed the importance of projects that create jobs and contribute to rural development and appealed to government officials to visit remote rural areas and invest in his project and others like it.
“Our trees are now three years old and will soon be yielding their first good harvest. We are looking forward to the returns that this will bring as this will provide an income for our workers and the opportunity to further expand our farm. It is my aim to distribute the wealth generated from the farm to the people in our area.”
“One of the biggest challenges for people living in this remote area is that transport is very expensive making it difficult for them to access services. Many of the roads in our area are gravel roads and we need to appeal to our local municipality to assist us with keeping the roads in good order. When our citrus trees start producing and we need to transport this product from our farm we will need our road infrastructure improved.”
Nkosi Zondi’s wife has assisted with administration from the start of the project, but as the farm has developed they now have an accountant who assists with this function.
Nkosi Zondo explained the origins and establishment of the Ethembeni Care Centre, a beautiful building situated next to the government clinic at Swart Mfolozi. The Care Centre serves as an important resource for people affected by HIV in the area and is run by Nkosi Zondi’s wife, who is a qualified nurse.
“Around 9 years ago my wife told me how many of our people were sick and dying from HIV. This terrible situation prompted me to go to Germany in 2009 to seek financial assistance. I spent a month doing presentations at businesses and churches, appealing for assistance and was able to raise R3.7 million from a range of individuals and churches. I donated the land for the building while the funds raised were used for the design and construction of the Care Centre, which caters for members of our community who have HIV /AIDS.”
“As we receive ongoing funding from Germany for the project, a bank account in the name of the Lutheran Church was opened, which is administrated by the Lutheran nuns who work as nurses at the Care Centre. We have an excellent working relationship with the nuns and since they have started working here, they have also learned to speak Zulu to communicate with the patients. The ongoing funding includes funding for vehicles to transport patients to the Care Centre and to the hospital in Vryheid. The Care Centre provides care for around 100 patients and also provides them with food parcels. The Lutheran Church has also assisted the community by providing bursaries for university education for some of the local youngsters, and funding for school fees and school uniforms for the local scholars. We are eternally grateful to the Lutheran Church and the German people for their assistance to our people.”