by Katherine Fillmore
When I pick up waste out of a river I play Johnny Clegg’s song Asimbonanga and work to the rhythm and energy the music conveys. Asimbonanga means we did not see him’ but we definitely felt Madiba’s spirit today. In the song Clegg sings ‘we are all islands till comes the day we cross the burning water. ‘It started off really as a song about me feeling very down and hopeless. And then while I was writing I thought, well, who can actually cross these dirty waters? And when it came down to it, it was Mandela,’ said Johnny Clegg. Uniting hands and hearts we can cross these dirty waters and heal the Hennops River and in turn all rivers in South Africa.
Madiba told the world that there is no future for anyone if water is unavailable. ‘Amongst the many things I learned as President of our country, was the centrality of water in the social, political and economic affairs of the country, continent and indeed the world,’ said Mandela. If we continue to pollute our rivers we harm the social, political and economic affairs of this country and the world. If we heal our rivers we will boost this country and in turn improve the lives of future generations.
Exxaro Resources and the Strategic Water Partners Network (SWPN) spearhead a “heal the Hennops” cleanup at the Royal Elephant Hotel, as part of their 67 minutes on Mandela Day 2019.
A diverse group of companies, NGO’s and government entities joined forces to start the process to remove two polystyrene islands in the Hennops River. These islands have become natural litter traps where masses of plastic have accumulated to form a walkable surface over 50m long. These islands are constantly releasing toxins into the river and damaging the ecosystem around them.
The team of 200 volunteers cleared 220 bags of rubbish around the river. It was concluded that it was too risky to to break up the ‘poly-island’ today. This will require strategic planning with the help of the municipality and the military.
‘It is an ambitious project that will need continued support from local communities and governments. However, we at Exxaro believe in powering better lives in Africa and beyond and this can start with projects like this. We hope that this project will encourage people living or doing business around the Hennops River to join in and also do their part to create a more sustainable environment for all,’ said Joey Louw Exxaro.
‘Water Partners Network (SWPN) was pleased to be a leading partner in this event,’ said Martin Ginster, private sector co-chair of the SWPN. The South African water sector faces a lot of challenges that can only be resolved through the efforts of the collective. While this may be a small yet important clean-up initiative our hope is that this event will inspire other similar actions throughout the country”.
The event also served as an opportunity to develop partnerships between the government, communities and companies to protect and manage the Hennops River. These partnerships will hopefully open the door to many more cleanup projects, educational programs and larger community involvement.
Strategic partners for the day included Fresh.ngo, Hennops Blue Horizon , BluSwirl Recycling, Department of Environmental Affairs, KleenHealth South Africa, KleenUP CREW- WATER, SANITATION & UPliftment Campaign, Nestle South Africa, Department of Water affairs, Billy the Bin #GoodGreenDeeds Campaign, Exxaro, Impact Adventures. Living Water, Plastics SA and MineRP.
To see all coming together for the healing of the Hennops is incredibly uplifting. Gratitude to all for your hard work!
Madiba said ‘it always seems impossible until it is done.’ In honour of the freedom Madiba fought so hard to achieve for the country we will do this!