The Kwa Mashu Hostel
The Kwa Mashu hostel is located in the township of KwaMashu, some 15 kilometres northeast of Durban, KwaZulu-Natal. Situated in Kwa Mashu’s A Section, it is home to an estimate of 40 000 people. Historically the hostel was built for men who worked in Durban who lived without any women. When the hostel was first built, women were not allowed to live at the hostel. If a man was expecting a visit by his wife he had to report it to the hostel office before she arrived.
Style of living
The hostel is built in blocks and each block is identified by an alphabet for example block A and the rooms are identified by numbers, for example room 3 block B. Each room will have a group of 4 men living together; the men will rent for their bed. When the hostel was newly built the rent for the bed was R3 per month.
After the 1994 elections it became easier for women to enter the hostel and currently there are men who live with women at the hostel. The hostel of Kwa Mashu is the home to mostly people who have their roots in the kwa-Zulu Natal rural areas for example Umsinga, Inkandla and KwaNongoma.
The rate of crime was relatively high at the Kwa Mashu hostel due to the growth of the squatter camps. There has been point where the Kwa Mashu hostel was a no go zone for the police because of the dangerous weapons that residents of the hostel owned. However the South African Police Service has worked very hard toward making the hostel a safer place by confiscating a number of illegal firearms from residents of the hostel. The hostel is no longer a no go zone for the police.
The Kwa Mashu hostel is currently being rebuilt with a view of getting rid of the squatter camp and rather house people in the hostel.
Joe Mkhize (75) who was born in Umkhumbane in 1975 explained to us how he ended up living the hostel of Kwa Mashu until today. When Joe moved into Kwa Mashu in 1965 he had a wife a wife and rented a house in section F Ntombela Road in 1975 things turn out sour between himself and his wife and she moved out with their two children. She than reported their conflict to the township office. After she has reported the conflict he was called to the township office and given a notice to vacate those premises because all men who lived without wives had to live at the hostel. So he said in brief the Kwa Mashu hostel was not built for women or but for men who live alone for various reasons for example men who have come to the city of Durban to seek employment but have left their wives in their homelands such as Inkandla, Umsinga and Eshowe to raise up the children and look after their home.
The hostel has been better known as “emzini wezinsizwa” (a home of men) for many years and it is still referred to as “emzini wezinsizwa” . This term was used because the hostel was particularly built to accommodate men. Previously one would have to make report if his wife or fiancée was going to visit and mostly women would come to the hostel during the month end to collect money for men in order to maintain their homes back at the homelands.
Life is at it best at the Kwa Mashu hostel despite the crime incidents that had been reported about the area before. Men who are residents of the hostel would not even live the area to seek entertainment because they create their own entertainment.
Nkosiyakhe Zubane who is originally from Kwa Maphumulo says, “Here at the hostel we entertain ourselves with music, meat and drinks.” As you walk through the corridors of the hostels you would here the sounds of different music but mostly maskandi music.
The are more than two shisanyama’s (braai butcheries), there number of women who sell inhloko (prepared cow head meat) and inyama yangaphakathi (tripe and intestine meat) is countless and with all of those things available a men from the hostel does not see the need to leave the area to go a hang out else where. As an addition the Kwa Mashu hostel has it own soccer ground which allows it residents who have the love for soccer to participate in what they love the most.
The hostel area also attracts people who are not residents. A number of respected people have been spotted in the area enjoy the meat that is available in the area.
Written by Ntokozo Tshapa