Community lives in fear of giant rock

Residents in KwaXimba say they want to be relocated as a matter of urgency

By Nompendulo Ngubane

About 15 homes beneath the giant granite rock have experienced tremors and rock falls. Photo: Nompendulo Nguane

Residents in KwaXimba, half way between Durban and Pietermaritzburg, say they are living in fear and would be happy to be relocated. This comes after a rock fall two weeks ago and similar incidents over the years. About 15 homes in the area are affected.

The houses stand beneath Isithumba Mountain, an enormous 200 metre high granite rock, known as Old Baldy, a tourist attraction for sport climbers on the Durban Green Corridor and the iSithumba Adventure Centre.

A resident for 30 years, 68-year-old Zanele Duma said she was already up at 7am, getting her grandchildren ready for school, when the house started shaking. “It was like an earthquake, followed by a big sound. It sounded like lightning … We all vacated the house and stood outside … The shaking of the houses still continued. Everyone in the area was standing outside. There were pieces of the rock that were still falling down … Neighbours across the river were screaming ‘phumani endlini’ – get out of the house,” said Duma.

This was two weeks ago. In 2002, there was also a major incident.

Residents say tremors have caused cracks in the walls of their houses. Duma said they are waiting for the worst to happen. She says they cannot afford to move and rebuild. None of the seven members of her family have work and they share her pension.

Resident Tiffany Ntombela said she loved the area but felt they must leave. “We are in grave danger. This time it was a warning. I have never seen anything like that before. The sound was scary and it took some time before the smoke cleared up … There were sparks coming from the rock and smoke,” she said.

Ward councillor Musa Mkhize said a team of scientific experts had been sent to investigate. He said their report was awaited. Mkhize also said that land had been found about five kilometres away to where residents could be relocated. KwaXimba lies in a Traditional Authority Area.

Mkhize said the matter had been discussed with the eThekwini municipality, the premier, and reported to the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta).

“There is no budget for natural disasters in place. However, we can confirm that the residents will be moved from the area. Those families are in danger … We cannot turn a blind eye on the matter,” said Mkhize.

“It was like an earthquake, followed by a big sound. It sounded like lightning … We all vacated the house and stood outside,” said Zanele Duma.

Published originally on GroundUp .

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