Mdantsane is a unique, vibrating, eclectic, African place. Follow us on a pilgrimage to Mdantsane to discover the street culture, fashion, food, people, music, homes, taverns, humor, businesses, history and what's hot in the second biggest township in South-Africa, located close to the city of East London in the Province of the Eastern Cape. Join us on this journey while we capture the spirit of this amazing place for you in the here and in the now. We are going to introduce you to many individuals, artists, musicians, groups and associations.
They are the HEROES OF DAILY LIFE. They are the people who create, innovate and improve their life and their stories deserve to be told. This is a place for only good and positive stories of humanity, that will send out a message of courage, endurance and strength to the world through their pictures and words.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Mdantsane FM Goes On Air, At Last

Mdantsane FM !!!

For years Mdantsane has been starved the opportunity to have its own community media (community radio and newspaper) thus denying the local community a plartfom to be entertained, informed and educated about issues that directly affected them. 
The community of Mdantsane finally woke up to music in their ears on 18 November 2011, when Mdantsane FM went on air for the first time at the Mdantasne Hotel premises.

Mdezee studio at the back of the butcher in N. U. 5

It took the intervention by the Buffalo City Metropolitan Municipality for the station to finally go on air, after failing to do so for four years, when the station first received it's broadcasting license.
The Municipality threw a lifeline and funded the station with an amount of R138 000 for them to pay rental to the South African signal distributor Sentech, for their transmitter for six months with a possibility of futher funding thereafter, depending on how successful the station turns out to be.

Part of the protesting crowd at the Highway Taxi Rank

So desperate was the local community for their own station that about two years ago, an alleged illegal community radio station had to be closed down a few months after it started, as it was operating without a broadcasting licence and was deemed unlawful. 
Mdezze FM, a brainchild of a local businessman and ironically a former Sentech engineer Sivuyile Mahlahla, started broadcasting at the back of his business premises in N U 5 via setellite. It was just when the station was starting to gain popularity around Mdanstane that all hell broke loose. 

Another larger crowd

 It is alleged that the station gained popularity because it was seen as the mouthpiece of the community to voice their needs, expose lack of service delivery and incompetent councillors, something that did not go down well with the authorities. As a result members of the South African Police, Sentech and coucillors raided the premises, this move angered the community who took to the streets to protest as they felt the station was helpful.
The new Mdantsane station employs over 50 people and mostly the youth, and broadcast in 80% Xhosa and 20% Engilsh. Not only the township will benefit but also communites in the station will reach outlying area as well. 

Most of the spectators that came where form NU 5

Story and Pictures by Siyanda Nkonyeni

Monday, November 28, 2011

Ethel - Life As A Female Car Guard

It was last year around Christmas, that I saw Ethel for the first time. She is the only female car guard I know.
May be, in the bigger South African cities there are more women who earn a living like this, but not in East London.

Two days ago I saw her again, sitting on the small wall at the Esplanade in Quigney. I stopped to have a chat with her.

Ethel works in the area around the Wimpy. Although the sky was of the brightest beautiful South African blue and the ocean was calm and looked like in the Mediterranean, this day the Esplanade had a lonely and deserted feel. Municipal workers were setting up the yearly Christmas decorations on the street lights.

She is close to seventy years old, but does not know her real age. Everyday she travels from Mdantsane, NU2, where she lives, to the Esplanade. 
Last year she got hit by a car on the road and severly injured. She spent several weeks in hospital. She has what she calls, a big plate in her right chest, which is very painful often. Since then she walks with her upper body bent to one side.

" The doctors told me that I will have to go to the hospital again to have the plate removed because something is not right, " Ethel says.
My question as to why she still wanted to work as a car guard after having such a serious accident and considering the fact that guarding cars is obviously a male dominated and sometimes also violent field of work, where competiton is not taken lightly, she said :
" It is still easier than at home ". 

" Some of the men are not happy to have me here, but I just stay out of their way .May be they don't chase me because I am short and old. Others think I am crazy ".
Ethel is not more than 1,40 m tall.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

In Africa, When An Old Man Dies, It's A Library Burning

I want to introduce you to my other blog " La Vie Est Belle Souvent ". I have written a post recently that complements " Our Place Of Origin". 
If you are interested in other topics about South Africa please come and visit this site. Just click on the title and you will be transfered.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Our Place Of Origin

We wrote this post in response to a letter, we have received from a very nice lady in Brazil, named Lucia. She loves our magazine and has been following our posts faithfully from over the great lake. Lucia says, she is Afro-American and has started recently the search for her African roots. She thinks, that her ancestors came from South Africa.

She asked: Where are the Amaxhosa from? What is their tradition? How is the township Mdantsane related to the rural areas in the Eastern Cape?
Well, this was not the first suggestion we have received to write about the history of the Eastern Cape. We are not historians or experts on South African history but we have received so many requests and suggestions to include topics like history, the Xhosa tradition, the Eastern Cape etc., that we do not want to ignore them.
However, it is a challenging task, because many others have written about the Transkei and the Eastern Cape before us and have delivered material of quality, but nevertheless have we decided to include the category "history" in our magazine.

What we attempt to do with the Mdantsane Way Magazine is to deliver deep and personal accounts of people's lives, that have a sense of time and space.

So with time we will extent the scope of what we write about.

Women and a child from the Fingo tribe by Alice Mertens

In Africa the "sense of belonging" to a family, a clan, an ethnic group or a certain tradition is still largely intact. In our experience this applies to the whole of the continent.
As an African you do not exist by yourself and you do not question, that you are part of a much larger entity. And as an African usually you are proud to belong to whatever it is (a clan, a family, a region), that you identify yourself with.

The collective consciousness is alive in Africa. Even if people deny the importance of heritage, sooner or later many are affected by the desire to know more about themselves.
This leads to the urge to find your roots and the quest to find your origin starts usually at this point. The search for the ones whose blood line you share and who have lived before you begins. It can become a long and time consuming passion, that leads to may question, that in some cases can not be answered easily.

Xhosa girls at a dance for the unmarried. The topless dress indicates single status by A. Mertens

These images are not only beautiful, but they are testimonials of history. They were taken by a photographer in the 1970's in the Transkei. Her name was Alice Mertens.

The Transkei has a great history. The total land area amounts to approximately 42.000 square kilometers and 450 km of coastline. The principal groups are the Xhosa, Tembu and Pondo. It is one of the most beautiful areas of South Africa and has an annual rainfall of more than 500 mm a year. It's agricultural potential is great.

Many people who live in Mdantsane have still family and their roots in the Transkei. During holidays they go and visit their family in the Transkei. The Transkei is "the real home' for many. 

Young Pondo man by A. Mertens

The Transkei was the first Homeland, that was established under the Apartheid regime and considered as a "Black Territory". 

On the other hand the township Mdantsane, created as a so called Bantu residential area, served as a labor pool for the industrial development sites in East London. People lived in the township and commuted to the city and the industrial development sites for work. In the evening they returned to the township because the pass laws did not allow them to be in the white living areas at night.
But during their holidays their returned to where their families lived - the Transkei.

When we started working on the book "The Mdantsane Way" we became more and more self critic. We began researching coffee table books, to learn and to get inspired by the work of others, who had done something like that before me. What we found was amazing. We did not limit our search to books, that are available in book stores at present, but we looked for out of print books as well. 

Our publisher, Chocolat, browsed through second hand shops, charity shops and flea markets constantly. Whenever she saw something that impressed her, she bought it, thereby growing the Mdantsane Way's archive of historical and old Africa images.
She was impressed over and over again. She bought amazing books with great photographic artistic artwork for twenty or thirty Rand.
The above pictures originate from such a book and we hope that you like them as much as we do.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Vukuzenzele - Do It Yourself, My Experience


About three years ago the world economic downturn resulted in the highest unemployment figures ever recorded in recent times, as millions of people lost their jobs. The prediction that the world might soon experience a double-dip recession means that more and more South Aficans could face further retrenchments. The scourge has also led to fewer job opportunities, thus adding salt to the wound, as many young people already find themselves in an a state of dispondency, as most of them are unemployed.
It is estimated that in Africa alone 100 000 000 jobs are needed to try and solve the status quo.

Vukuzenzele is one of the initiatives by the government to encourage South Africans to stand up and do it for themselves, with a promise to create platforms and catalysts for assisting such efforts. 

As noble and sound as this idea might sound, the above mentioned promise exists only as such, just an idea and or promise to many, as accessing financial assistance remains a far fetched dream. This intended obligation by the gorvernment is clouded, namely by lack of available information, corruption, lack of funding and too much red tape to name just a few.

A friend of mine who just opened a hardware store in Mdantsane related to me how disappointed and shocked he was to find signages, advertising his business, were taken away by municipal authorities without any warning because they clashed with by-laws. What infurated him was that he did not understand why he was the only one targeted as there were many other signages around Mdanstane. 
He went to the municipal office and demand his signages be put back where they were or if not, all signages in Mdantsane be taken down. After his protest, he was given back his signages and he put them up, and was never bothered again. 

My turn of Vukuzenzele gone bad, came when I wanted to have my mobile shop outside the Nontyatyambo Clinic at the Highway Taxi Rank in the township. I saw a business opportunity to sell take-aways there, since there was no cafeteria at the premises. 

I was told to make an application to the municipality, where I was given a long list of things to install in my mobile shop before I could go ahead. A sink, storage spaces, a tap were some of the things I was asked to install before a permit could be issued. 

The total cost of the installations was estimated at R 7 000, mind you, I am in between jobs at the moment and do not have a regular income. In Mdantsane many businesses are run without permits and as a law abiding citizen, I went through all the trouble as I wanted to do things by the book. 
I tried to explain to the manager that I could not afford such installations, and besides around the township there are containers who are standing there without any licenses from the municipality. 

The manager insisted that I should meet the requirements first, and what makes me angry is that there are hawkers who are trading already next to the clinic entrance, also without permission. With the levels of corruption I would not be suprised to see that the permit to sell at the clinic will be given to a person who has a close relationship with the powers that institution.

A  story by Siyanda Nkonyeni

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Paying Tribute To A Boxing Legend - Happy Boy Mgxaji

We have been promosing you since a while that we would start telling stories about Mdantsane's boxing history and the famous boxers the township has produced over decades. And Siyanda Nkoyeni has written the first story for us. Here it is.

It is a fact that Mdantsane is famous for boxing and has produced not only South African but many world champions as well, and thus has placed South Africa on the world map. There are many stories as to why boxing is popular in the Eastern Cape and mainly in Mdantsane, but there is one thing for sure that the sport is like a culture in the province. 

Over the years champions came and went, and many local boxing fans will agree that the name Nkosana "Happy Boy" Mgxaji, is so synonymous with boxing in Mdantsane that the history of the sport cannot be told without mentioning his name.

Happy Boy Mgxaji at his prime
The huge attendance by hundreds of boxing fans at his funeral, from all over South Africa on 13 February 2011 at Sisa Dukashe stadium, was a true testimony to this man's stature in the sporting frartenity. Mention must be made that it was only befitting for this Mdantsane hero to be buried in the same venue where he used to mesmirise his fans with this boxing skills.

Some are taking refuge under their umbrellas from the sun at the Grand Stand during Mgaxji's Funeral
Born in Tsolo location in 1949, a black township just outside East London, Mgxaji came from a poor family where his mother sold vegetables for a living. Like many township kids at the time, Mgxaji did not go far in school and dropped out in standard six. 
He grew up in the rough neighbourhood where he took up the sport of boxing so as to defend himself, and also later to earn a living to help his struggling mother, unbeknown to him that this was the beginning of his illustrous boxing career.  

Former boxers forming a guard of honor at Mgaxaji funeral
It was the 1963 amateur championships in Port Elizabeth, that Mgxaji's star started to shine, and where boxing officails took note of this wonder kid from Mdanstane. He became an amateur champion that same year and in 1968 turned professional, remaining unbeated untli 1971.
"Happy Boy", a name bestowed to him by his brother, Nzimande Douglas Mgxaji, was known to be a fitness fanatic and disciplinarian, a reason why he never had a trainer. He preferred to work out alone and only strategised when facing the opponents in the ring.  Mgxaji fought many memorable fights and had an incredible record of 101 professional fights, winnng 88, with 27 KO's, drew 4 and lost 9. 

Dignitairies and MEC's also attended the funeral

Those old enough will tell you that there was only one reason why large crowds of boxing fans would descend upon Sisa Dukashe stadium in the 1970's and 80's on Sartudays afternoons, only to watch Happy Boys' boxing craft in the ring. Sadly, like many local boxers, Happy Boy died a pauper due to an asthma attack at the age of 61. Driving down Qumza Highway, his house in NU 3 casts a monumental picture of this trailblazer's history.  

A Story  By Siyanda Nkonyeni


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