Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Day 6 - Bathlaros

Today's matches:

Honduras 0 v. Chile 1
Spain 0 v. Switzerland 1
South Africa 0 v. Uruguay 3

A Story:

In 1964 Meshack Nkadimang was growing up near Postmasburg in the Northern Cape when, one day, the bulldozers came. A big iron-ore mine was being developed in the area and the people were told that they would have to go. “My father was a chief and he told his people that they should not leave. He said this was his land, their land, and that he would die there,”

Because of South Africa’s apartheid-era forced removals, places such as Johannesburg’s Sophiatown and Cape Town’s District Six are world famous, but in the remote, sparsely populated semi-desert areas of the Northern Cape, the eviction of Meshack Nkadimang’s community was barely noticed. Few, if any, people outside of Postmasburg ever knew about the pain suffered by his people and the brutal treatment handed out to Meshack and his father.

“When they came to remove us, and my father refused to be moved, they beat him almost to death. I was a young man and I tried to defend him. All I had was my kettie [catapult]. It was only me and my father. Then they beat me too.”The community Meshack had grown up in was dispersed and, most painfully, their ancestors summarily exhumed and their bodies dumped in a communal grave. Moved some 10km from their ancestral lands, Meshack and his people were, tragically, evicted again in 1977, eventually making their way to the village of Bathlaros outside the town of Kuruman.

Here, in 2004, a remarkable entrepreneur opened a quite unique hotel; the Hotel Kgalagadi. Unemployment is rife in Bathlaros and many of the local people have stories to tell of great suffering but, as Meshack says, you won’t find the slightest trace of bitterness in the village. What you will find, he says, is a community that is ultra-welcoming and which takes pride in the one-of-a-kind hotel that Meshack has designed and built in their midst. This community will welcome you into their homes, take you for a donkey-cart ride, and happily share a dop [drink] with you as the sun sets, in blazing shades of orange, red and pink, over their desert landscape.

Some 600km from Johannesburg, like Meshack’s hotel, the region around Kuruman is unique. Since its opening, the Hotel Kgalagadi has become a tourist drawcard in its own right. Entirely designed by Meshack, the hotel has 23 rooms, including 10 chalets, 12 standard rooms (all airconditioned with TV sets, bar fridges and en-suite bathrooms) plus one executive room.

The restaurant, serving a blend of African and western cuisine, seats 66. There are conference facilities for up to 200. Hotel Kgalagadi even has its own cinema, seating 56.As Meshack says, in the harsh, isolated environment that is the far Northern Cape, one has to work hard to eke out a living. He restores vintage cars, the hotel’s bar generates some income, as do his art and sculpture. “I’ve got so many businesses, I can’t count them all,” he laughs.

One of the crafts he learnt (while working at Sun City) was that of artificial rock-making, a craft he has made extensive use of at the Hotel Kgalagadi. The swimming pool is fed from a waterfall cascading down rocks Meshack created himself, framed by banana trees he planted himself.As much as the hotel is a testament to one man’s creative, entrepreneurial vision, it is also about the empowerment of a rural community. Eight people have permanent jobs at the Hotel Kgalagadi, while four are employed part-time. Then there are the people who earn money making things, as per Meshack’s example, fashioning things of beauty out of cast-off materials.

The Church in Bathlaros, St Michael and All Angels, is linked with Newbury Deanery, who support the local community with regular visits and uphold it in their prayers.

Today we pray:
  • For all those who find themselves uprooted from their homes
  • We give thanks for individuals who bring life and hope to others
  • That we who have plenty may have generous hearts and give to others
  • For the work undertaken by the church in Bathlaros to support the local community
  • For Fr Henry Joseph the Parish Priest

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