WATCH | eNkanini’s got talent! 

Residents of a land occupation in Durban held a pageant to showcase their young people and bring some much-needed sparkle and hope amid the state’s brutal evictions and arrests.

Young people and children staged a talent show in the community of eNkanini in Cato Crest, Durban, in February. The settlement is part of shack dwellers’ movement Abahlali baseMjondolo and the performances were in response to their journey since eNkanini’s establishment in 2017 and to residents’ reality now. Over the years, they have suffered unlawful evictions and arrests. But in the self-built hall, young people broadcast the message that the community is moving into a new phase of resistance and resilience, that there is hope and prosperity for all. 

Anele Mshwashwu, 20, an eNkanini resident since its inception, organised the talent show. She came up with the concept during a youth meeting in the settlement as part of the effort to create drug awareness: “We want to get the youth out of the streets and corners. Too many children are sitting around feeling uninspired and turning to drugs. They’re getting into things like codeine and crime. They have no one to look up to and they feel abandoned. But they have so much to offer through their skills, interests and talents.”

Resident and leader in the settlement Busisiwe Diko says that now comes the task of self-sufficiency, a form of resistance just as difficult as fighting for land. “2017 was a hard year for us. We watched on as our parents fought, never slept or ate, struggling for this land. We’ve had different phases in this settlement. We’ve had to fight against the state, the police and oppression, against each other and the struggle to keep the spirit of ubuhlalism alive. To see everyone living in harmony and safety.

“Our aim is to hide from the shame of poverty. We want to show people that we are not just fighters. We are not animals, but we are a strong community with a focus on improving its youth,” says Diko.

19 February 2022: Residents of eNkanini watch as performances heat up the compact community hall. The talent show is the first of its kind in the settlement.

Offering hope

eNkanini is named after the shack settlement that housed Marikana’s striking miners who were killed on 16 August 2012. The name defines the settlement’s struggle, which is encapsulated in Abahlali baseMjondolo’s idea of ubuhlalism – the notion of ubuntu embedded in the daily experience of Abahlali members.

The high court in Durban granted the residents of eNkanini an interdict to allow them to occupy the area, which they did in August 2017. The settlement has more than 274 homes, but five years later, no services have been provided. The community relies on self-connections for water and electricity. Despite the interdict, residents face brutality from the state. Masked police officers who raided eNkanini on 11 March allegedly shot and killed Siyabonga Manqele. Witnesses claim that the police were kicking down doors searching for unregistered firearms allegedly used in a murder in January. Manqele was standing outside his home while his girlfriend Thandeka Sithunsa was being arrested when he was fatally shot.

The talent show offers some welcome levity in a community plagued by deadly evictions and harsh treatment.

19 February 2022: Judges watch the performances, which include numbers from musicals, poetry, modelling and dance. 
19 February 2022: Show attendees in the self-built hall include residents from neighbouring communities that Abahlali baseMjondolo invited. The performances depict the realities and struggles that the eNkanini settlement faces.
19 February 2022: A choir rehearses before performing inside the community hall.
19 February 2022: A performer shakes the stage with a Zulu dance. He also partnered with a young dancer who used ukugiya to revive the older attendees, who enjoy cultural dance.
19 February 2022: Sinenhlanhla Simeku, 13, wants to be a therapist. ‘We are youthful to be useful. We are poor, but we are positive. Like positive people, we proceed from poverty to prosperity, provided they pay the price of perseverance,’ she says.
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