Ntinga Sibusiso raised his hand in greeting – “I haven’t forgotten Mtini” he waves a high five as Doug Burden,DUCT manager and I (Pandora Long) drove away from the Nagel Dam reception offices.
Ntinga supervises one of ten DUCT River Care Teams that are working along the length of the uMngeni and Msunduzi Rivers. Ntinga’s team works in the Nagel dam area clearing the river of water hyacinth and other aquatic weed, and its banks of alien invasive plants. As we drove away from the dam, Doug pointed out the team working along the river. The river, that just over two years ago, had been completely choked up with weed, now sparkled in the sunshine.
Ntinga was excited about our wanting to involve communities and schools along the river during the ‘Mayday for Rivers’ uMngeni Source to Sea walk. Asking for the River Care Team’s help in the education programme was an exciting step for us all! Engaging all the schools along the river in an education programme is a difficult task. With Ntinga’s enthusiasm and passion for his community, what had seemed like an impossible vision, was now becoming a reality.
The trip into Nagel Dam via the Table Mountain Road was a route I’d never taken before. Deep green gorges of valley bushveld alternated with steep round granite outcrops. Nagel lay like a silvery sickle around the foot of the valley. A burchells coucal flew out in front of the bakkie, ‘Phew’ Doug took his eyes off the rear view mirror and breathed a sigh of relief as he watched the big bird beat a clumsy retreat back into the road reserve.
Then we were away from Nagel and the uMgeni and driving right next to the Msunduzi river, passing newly built sports fields, schools and colourful homes set into the hillsides. Now we were circling around towards the uMgeni again and soon we came to a long low bridge over the river. Under a knarled old paper bark thorn, roots exposed like arms groping for a handhold, stood Sithembiso Sangweni, supervisor of the DUCT River Care Team that worked in the Isithumba area, above Inanda Dam. Explaining our mission, Sithembiso was also pleased to help. Schools that had previously just been numbers on a map, now had names. Suddenly the idea of having school children walking alongside us as we passed schools during the ‘Mayday Walk’ was possible. Sithembiso would help make arrangements for visits and dates were set for introductions and presentations.
‘Just one more stop’ Doug said as we drove away from alongside the river. My attention was arrested by some fat cattle swaggering nonchalantly down to the river for a drink.
With the uMngeni now cascading through the valley on our left and an assortment of old granite blocks from a disused quarry on the right we climbed the hill, slipping and sliding as we pulled up at the last lookout point for the day.
Even when nowhere to be seen, the cattle made sure road users knew that they had right of way! As we stood overlooking the confluence of the Msunduzi and the uMngeni I was amazed at the beauty of the valley and how over the millennia nature had carved scene after scene with pure artistry.
And while my eyes took in the magnificence of my surroundings my ears were revelling in putting together, for the first time, the Duzi ‘inside story.’ Now ‘Duzi Bridge’ and ‘Imfelo store’, ‘Mamba gorge’ and ‘Mission Rapids’ took on a new meaning as Doug recounted his many Duzi experiences. Soon, as part of the DUCT walking team, my path and that of the uMngeni would be interconnected. As we travelled back through Inkanyazeni towards the Valley that is my home, I thought about the state of its river, the Mpushini, now dry and unable to support downstream users or the biodiversity of a Protected Environment. Dams withholding water from the ecological reserve, alien vegetation, pollution, illegal sandwinning, landuse change in riparian and floodplain areas, these were some of the common challenges that made the future of the health of our water resources look bleak. These were the issues that had shaped the direction of my work as an environmental educator and these are some the experiences I hope to share with the DUCT Team, and with schools and communities, as the ‘Mayday for Rivers’ journey unfolds.
Mtini, the cape clawless otter together with Mo, the Malachite kingfisher (the DUCT Mascot) are the central characters in the story that informs the DUCT Arts & Cultural Campaign. The ‘Mayday for Rivers’ Education Programme offers several opportunities for schools to be involved.
Go to the schools page to find the full schools programme and this years concept story ‘Sometimes when it Rains’.
This is Mtini’s High Five that Ntinga remembered from the story.
- Mtini’s little finger stands for safety, what we do must be safe for one another and for the environment.
- His ring finger stands for commitment, remain committed even if it is hard to do things differently, don’t give up!
- Middle finger stands for love and respect, show love and respect for one another and for the environment.
- Pointy finger stands for accountability, be accountable and ask, ‘What can I do?’ rather than blame others.
- Most important ‘thumbs up’ stands for encouragement, be encouraging! Recognize small achievements that help our environment.
- Mtini says that open palms stand for a positive attitude – have an open loving attitude and use and share resources wisely.
- Don’t forget we are all connected to the mountains, rivers and sea. Mtini says that head, hands and heart stand for interconnection. Build healthy relationships with yourself, your community and your environment.