Communities will now share in iSimangaliso

Sne Masuku

Sne Masuku

Hundreds of members of Mkhanyakude community on the north coast of KwaZulu-Natal celebrated the re-naming of the former St Lucia Wetland Park to a more appropriate name that compliments the return of their beautiful land.

The park has been named Isimangaliso Wetland Park.

The return of the pristine land will also provide job opportunities associated with what the park has to offer tourists.

The community, who are now the new owners, after restoration through the land restitution programme, will be assisted by the previous white owners to gain experience in the running of the park.

They gathered to celebrate the new name on Saturday.

"The name comes from the history of the park and reflects the miracle of our country and its diverse people," said provincial MEC for local government, housing and traditional affairs, Mike Mabuyakhulu.

Mabuyakhulu described the park as a place of hope, preserving heritage, and as a solid foundation for development.

After the community lodged a land claim with the Department of Land Affairs' restitution programme, it was given back its ancestral land.

The community has been overwhelmed by the number of business opportunities that have opened up for them since the land was returned .

Scores of people have sought business skills though training provided at the park, helping to reduce the rate of unemployment.

Zandile Mfeka, 20, said when ownership of the farm was restored to the community, she had no idea that her wish to have her own business could come true. She runs two cleaning services in the park.

Mfeka said she had no interest until she joined a business skills training programme provided by the park.

The consolidated 220000ha Wetland Park includes more than a third of the KwaZulu-Natal coastline , and jewels such as Kosi Bay, Lake Sibaya, Sodwana Bay, and Lake St Lucia

Explaining where the name comes from, Mabuyakhulu said uJeqe was Shaka's insila or aide, the keeper of the king's secrets and had to be customarily buried with him.

When Shaka died, Jeqe fled. He wandered into Thongaland, which includes Isimangaliso Wetland Park. He wandered east into Thongaland, which includes today's Isimangaliso Wetland Park, and later returned, saying: "I saw wonders and miracles in the flat land and the lakes of Thonga".

From this followed an isiZulu saying: "If you have seen miracles, you have seen what Jeqe saw".

So Jeqe could be regarded as one of the first tourists to visit what is now the iSimangaliso Wetland, explained Mabuyakhulu.