Boys dance and drum way out of poverty

Mhlaba Memela

A traditional Zulu dance - indlamu - makes a living for many families of the impoverished area of Hluhluwe in northern Zululand.

The high rate of employment, estimated at over 60percent, has forced young boys aged between the ages of seven and 14 to brave the scorching sun to dance for tourists to feed their families.

Orphaned boys opted to spend their school holidays by dancing near the Hluhluwe-Mfolozi Game Park as a way of earning a living. The group of young boys had no option but to fend for their themselves by dancing and receiving donations from tourists who visit the park.

Sphelele Madondo said they identified the opportunity after realising life was hard in their families. He said some of the boys rely on the money from tourists to buy school uniforms and pay school fees.

"These children have opted not to stay in their homes and wait for a Good Samaritan to come. They also feed their families. We cannot fold our arms and wait for the government or others to help us."

Madondo said they shared the money among themselves every day, depending on how much they made.

"On a busy day, we make over R500 and each dancer must go home with his share. They keep the money to buy school materials and food. Because schools are reopening, we will only come on weekends," he said.

Sibonelo Madonsela said it was "very painful" when tourists passed them without throwing coins.

"We just want to have food. And people who come into the park are our only option to feed our families and buy school uniforms."

The area falls under Umkhanyakude district municipality, and most people in the area are employed in the park and local lodge. It is one of the districts President Thabo Mbeki said the government should attend to in its fight against poverty.

The district has a high prevalence of HIV and Aids.