KwaMashu – Fighting Adversity with Art

Private Property South Africa
Lea Jacobs

The forced removals of Blacks from Cato Manor under the Groups Area Act during the apartheid era led to the formation of KwaMashu Township in 1956. KwaMashu is Durban’s oldest township and is situated approximately 30km west of the city centre.

KwaMashu has come a long way from its contentious beginnings and the area today houses over 500 000 residents with a fully-established infrastructure. Community health problems were highlighted in the late 1950s due to the extreme poverty and overcrowded conditions. Infectious diseases seen at that time were largely due to inadequate nutrition, which prompted the establishment of the Polyclinic. Today, known as the Newtown Clinic, the facility boasts a full Community Health Centre, taking care of resident’s health needs and offers programs addressing HIV, health promotion and education, as well as much-needed ARV treatment programs.

Visitors to this diverse region can witness day-to-day life at grass roots level by taking a township tour that offers a fascinating glimpse of a bustling neighbourhood. The tour encompasses a visit to the traditional herbalists and Sangomas, eating tasty African cuisine, as well as visiting the local Zamimpilo Orphanage.

Many of the teenage residents of the area are raising the cultural profile of the township and it is said that KwaMashu’s residents fight adversity with their art. The eKhaya Multi Arts Centre for Arts and Performance encourages young up-and-coming performers to display their talents through performances such as hip-hop musicals, contemporary dance and amateur drama performances. The late Henry Cele was born in KwaMashu on the 30 January 1949 and his acting career gave many young hopefuls the inspiration needed to make it onto the big screen. After a successful international film career, Cele chose to return to his beloved home town of KwaMashu and eventually died there in November 2007.

According to recent statistics released by Lightstone, 41 property transfers have taken place over the past year. All of the sales concluded were freehold properties and priced at under R400 000. Interestingly, 46.51% of recent purchasers in the area fell in the age group of 18-35 years of age; perhaps an indication that affordably-priced properties prove attractive to those in the younger age groups. This may, in part, be due to the excellent public transport system that is in place, attracting up-and-coming professionals to settle in the area. Price averages have maintained steady growth over the last five years; however sales volumes have declined somewhat over the same period.

There are a total of 23 schools, both primary and secondary, to choose from when considering the educational needs of the children living in the area. A number of large shopping centres such as the Kenmore or the Phoenix Plaza cater for the needs and wants of those who reside here.

A number of books and documentaries written about KwaMashu over the years reveal that although life in the township has not always been easy due to political adversities, there is an overwhelming sense of community that is still alive today. Film director Owen Alik Shahadah, who is best known for authoring works which depict African history, social justice, education and world peace, has produced a number of award-winning documentaries and films. Shahadah wrote and produced “KwaMashu – still my home” which was released in 2008. The film is a story of “struggle, torn promises, hopes and dreams – a story of a place that is still my home”.

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