An Interview with Mr. Malala and Rodney

By Daniel Dominguez

Our interview began on a sunny afternoon in the savannah, a slight breeze was blowing in the air as we sat down in the shadow of the main cabin of the Tshulu Research Camp with Rodney and Mr. Malala. We nervously awaited the beginning of the interview, just then Rodney began to smile and speak. He started by introducing himself and Mr. Malala, we then began to introduce ourselves one by one. Rodney said the best way to start our discussion was to introduce the concept of the Tshulu Trust. The Tshulu Trust operates in Ha-Makuya of the Mutale Local Municipality in the Limpopo Province. The Tshulu Research Camp was built as an ancillary site to help accommodate its primary mission, which is the homestays. The homestays offer a unique experience: visitors will stay with a family that needs help and their stay helps bring in income to a struggling family at the time. In return, visitors get to experience the life of the people in the area. The Tshulu Trust began in 2007 and helps employ community members. Its board members are all volunteers from the Ha-Makuya area who receive no financial compensation from being on the board.

Rodney and Mr. Malala had two very different stories on how they began working for Tshulu Trust. Rodney was a security guard in Johannesburg and was doing so to support his family back in Ha-Makuya. Much like the early industrialization of Europe, it was a better benefit to go to the city for work and make more money and send it back to your family than to stay in your local village. When Rodney learned of a security internship at Tshulu Research Camp and the mission of the Trust, he applied for the job and secured it. Rodney began as the night security worker at Tshulu Research Camp; and three years later in 2011, he became the camp manager, the role that he continues to work in. Mr. Malala's story is much different. When plans began, it became apparent that someone in the community was needed to make the project happen. The trust came to Mr. Malala because he had studied the geography of the area and corrected the board on the best location for the camp. Mr. Malala was an engineer by trade; having never received any formal training, he could do masonry, contracting, electrical, and welding work around the camp to make it a reality. He is a real jack of all trades. The Tshulu Research Camp stands tall because of his continuing work. Whenever any maintenance needs to occur, he is contacted to rectify the issue. The two men would like to expand the camp so that they could bring in more visitors to the area and hire more people in the community and their families.

Rodney’s family consists of 4 children and Mr. Malala has 9 children to support. Both men expressed that it was challenging for them to put their families through school. Although admission was free, they still had to pay for books, supplies, and boarding while they attended the far away schools. Working for the Tshulu trust helped them raise the necessary funds to continue their children’s education.

Being a child of Immigrants, I asked if they would ever like to emigrate to a country like the United States and they stated that they would not want to move there. This was a surprise to me as the reason my own parents moved to the United States was so that their children could have a better future. They responded “We would not like to move away from Africa because here we are connected by blood and by soil, in America we would only be connected by blood.” It became clear that the two men wanted to help the community grow and they wanted to take charge of the growth and began working with the Tshulu Trust.

As the breeze began to slow and the sun came over our heads I had one final question for the men, “Are you happy with your situation?”

“Yes,” they both stated

Rodney continued; “We can not change the circumstances by which we were born to. It would have been nice to be born to a family that had a lot of wealth, but that is not the case. We were born here, and we can not change that. All that we can do is work to better our situation and to help those around us, that is why we are happy because we are doing just that.”

Natalie Miller