AmaWeliseli Church, Ocilwane Village, FULENI.

A group photo of the audience who attended the Isolesiwe Film Festival

A group photo of the audience who attended the Isolesiwe Film Festival

The idea for the Isolesizwe Film Festival grew from the participatory video training workshop held in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) in November 2016, when the power of film was introduced to activists from various communities, including Fuleni and Somkhele. The Isolesizwe Film Festival (IFF) was seen as providing an opportunity for a public gathering where locally made films could be showcased that would attract a diverse audience of Zulu speaking people. It was organised by a group of dynamic young members of the Mfolozi Community Environmental Justice Organisation (MCEJO).

AmaWeliseli Church, Ocilwane

AmaWeliseli Church, Ocilwane

Lebo Ngobeni (Masuku), an enthusiastic MCEJO member and anti-mining activist, gave the festival the name Isolesizwe, which is Zulu for the eye of the nation. She says: “I pushed to have it called the Isolesizwe Film Festival because I want the whole nation to see what we going through. I want the world to know and see what is happening in Fuleni and Somkhele and in other parts of South Africa and all over the world. To be able to see how people are affected by mines and really suffer. Living next to a mine is not a life anyone should have to live.”
Films were chosen that would expose people to the importance of reviving their Zulu culture with its ceremonies and close ties to traditional seeds, and the indigenous livestock adapted to the area (eg. Nguni cattle and sheep). Films from the Gaia Foundation, like Seeds of Sovereignty, illustrated the vital importance of re-introducing traditional seed crops and sustainable farming practices that are more resilient and better able to withstand climate change compared to commercial seeds and GMO maize, which the Department of Agriculture has been promoting in Zululand for many years.

View of Somkhele mine from Ocilwane

View of Somkhele mine from Ocilwane

IFF also provided the opportunity to show a draft of Sphiwe Mazibuko’s short documentary, Undermining Life: Activists threatened in SA. The film is about community activists in South Africa who are intimidated and persecuted for opposing mining. Some have paid with their lives. The film tells the stories of courage, hope and struggle of brave men and women from Zululand and the Wild Coast (Xolobeni) who continue to risk everything to defend their land, homes and livelihoods from invading mining companies. As Nonhle Mbuthuma Forslund, from Xolobeni says in the film: “You must know one thing: the land doesn’t finish but the money does.” Sphiwe Mazibuko was keen to hold the first public screening of his film in Fuleni because several of the activists who feature in Undermining Life come from the Fuleni and Somkhele communities.

The Isolweni Film Festival was definitely a great success. Several MCEJO team members are keen to organise repeat screenings at people’s homes to extend the exposure of the films shown at IFF. Lebo Ngobeni (Masuku) suggested taking the IFF to local schools. There has also been a request to take the IFF to Somkhele.
EarthLore is looking forward to making the Isolesizwe Film Festival an annual event.

Feedback after the IFF

The feedback from the audience was extremely positive and generally people agreed the Isolesizwe Film Festival had been a great success.

Billy Mnqondo, Ocilwane activist: The IFF was great because other people from Fuleni were at the festival and they told me we must show everyone in Fuleni what’s going on. We must show people how in other countries they have stopped the mines and how they are looking after their land. For me personally, I felt sad because I saw we should have our land as it was before. What will we be leaving for future generations if we carry on with mining. Before we were able to feed ourselves from our land but now we have to rely on shops. This makes me very sad.

Lebo Ngobeni (Masuku) Novunula activist: The IFF meant everything to me. It means that we are now able to share with the world what we are going through. It also helped me a lot cause the guys that were at IFF from kwaNovunula are talking about it and how important is was for them to be there, how good the films were, and so it meant everything. I see a need for us to take the IFF to schools in the future.

Text message from Sthembiso Zulu, Fuyeni activist: IFF) iwuphawu olukhombisa ubunye futhi yakha isthombe esihle ebantwini… Futhi Iphinda inikezele ngolwaz kulabo abaluntulayo……… /The IFF is a sign of unity that presents a beautiful picture to people and gives knowledge to those who crave knowledge.

Sphiwe Mazibuko, filmmaker: Thank you for giving me and my team an opportunity to show the short documentary UnderMining Life: Activists threatened in South Africa. I want to see this idea developing. The IFF was a great initiative to educate people about the dangers of mines through short films. I will be happy if the film festival can happen annually and tour places affected by mines in KZN and other provinces.

Robby Mokgalaka, Coal Campaign leader for groundWork: The MCEJO team is very powerful emanating from the unbreakable unity in the struggle against the proposed mine. …. I love the idea of making the event an annual activity.

Grandmother Gogo Buthelezi: I don’t want this mine. I don’t want to see old graves being dug up, people dying, children continuously fighting. As we speak, I cannot see. My eyes are affected by this mining and we do not have water. We are not going to survive. People are sick.
Mama Mdaba from Ntuthunga: With the situation we facing, we do not want the mine. The mine will bring poverty and disease and abuse. I have seen the map. That mine fits in our homes. All it is bringing is problems and as it is now we do not have water.

Mama Sibongile Shange from Ntuthunga 2: I am feeling very sad because of what I have seen here today – people dying and getting sick because of the mines. We are not going to allow this. I am also feeling very sad and I have a headache after hearing about the passing of our revered elder, Gednezar Dladla. I can’t even speak because of the news I heard today that Baba Dladla is no more. He was the person who was helping us fight this problem. We have been abused a lot. We do not want the mine here bringing all the things that are happening at Somkhele – the housed breaking because of the mines. We have learnt lots from the film festival. Seeing is better than hearing. I have learnt a lot from these videos

Khombisile Mhlongo from Makhwezini: I am hurt and feeling pain about what I have seen here today if we allow the mine to come to our community. What hurt me most was the violation of the dead, the rested people, when the mine said they will dig them out and move them to be buried in areas they do not know. Right now we do not have water and the mine pollutes water when it cleans or washes the coal. Women are miscarrying. What kind of life will we live if we allow mines? My one wish is that all of my community could watch these videos and they will see the danger of the mines. I wish we would clean up our community because the dirt is adding to the increase of the drought in our villages.
The culture is not practised anymore. When I grew up in my village at Fuyeni there was a place where they used to go to practise the Nomkhubulwane ceremonies. Now it is not being practised. I think that place is not even being respected anymore. It is walked over by anyone nowadays. The area has been always green with trees. When you walk there you used to feel you were walking in a secret place. There was a rock pool where Shaka’s sister used to wash and that rock always had water. A white man came and broke the rock and his stomach filled with water and he died. This means that the area is our pride and a secret site that must be respected. As the Zulu people we need to respect that place and bow down to it as now we are facing drought in the village.

Mr Thulebone Maphumulo, Ocilwane: What makes me unhappy about the mining is that the life we are living here helps us a lot. We plant and we have cattle. If we have mining in this area, where are we going to get a beautiful place like this that will replace it? We have women who are widows here and men who are depending on their cattle to school their children with the money we get from selling cattle. If we allow mining, we are killing our nation and then even the iNkosi won’t have a nation to look after. I have learnt lots form this film festival about mining. Although I did not want the mine, now I don’t want it even more because of what I have seen in the videos. If we allow mining we will be destroying our lives. Already the dust we experience from Somkhele is killing our families.

Mr Umntomnyama Maphumulo, Ocilwane. What I have seen here, starting from the Mpumalanga video, is frightening. Our village has been affected since they introduced the idea mining here. We are experiencing drought. When the rain is coming, we see an aeroplane flying from the Somkhele mine and we know the rain will disappear. The mine is a killer – it kills people, our cattle and Nature. I am not going to allow mining here.


A private screening of UnderMining Life: Activists threatened in South Africa was spontaneously arranged in a friendly fish&chips shop at the Mtubatuba mall for Mamtshali Dladla, widow of the famous Somkhele activist, Mr Gednezar Dladla, who died on 18 October 2015. Mrs Dladla was in town for the day with Mr Dladla’s sister and niece The family were moved to tears by the film that showcased his contribution to the struggle and were very grateful for the continued respect shown to Mr Dladla.


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