Letter from Hobeni, 9th August 2014

Donald Woods Foundation,Hobeni 008

I am here in Hobeni volunteering as a librarian at the Donald Woods Foundation Library and Archive. Donald was the journalist who exposed the murder of Steve Biko by the apartheid security police in 1977 and, following attacks upon his family, was forced to flee South Africa and came into exile in the UK with his wife, Wendy, and his five children – Jane, Dillon, Duncan, Gavin and Mary.

The Donald Woods Foundation HQ is in Hobeni because it is where Donald was born. It is on a hill overlooking the Indian Ocean in the Transkei. To get there, you turn off the highway from East London to Mthatha at Bashee Bridge and drive down dirt roads, interspersed with sections of tarmac, for a considerable distance. The drive is through the Amathola Hills, and the scenery is absolutely stunning. Hobeni is on the section of the Indian Ocean called the Wild Coast which I first visited with a party from ACTSA Scotland 10 years ago. It is an area that has considerable tourist potential, with very good hotels along the coastal walk route. And the coastal walk is a relatively easy one. It is getting to the hotels along the dirt roads that is the challenge, but that only adds to the adventure. And if you are relatively fit, it is something that you can do without any real difficulty.

The other thing that I have noticed about the area is that there seems to be a considerable amount of new housing. I have been told that there is a plan to build 15,000 new houses in this part of the Eastern Cape, and that so far 1,500 have been built. I do not know, for sure, what the completion date is for this plan, but I think that the target is the end of this year, which will be a considerable challenge as they have only achieved 10% so far.

So how is the library progressing? Well, I arrived one day before the books and papers got here. This gave me time to get the library and archives catalogue databases set up, including testing that they actually work. 28 boxes of books and papers arrived here last Tuesday, and so far I have catalogued and classified 281 books, and 261 newspaper articles. It is clearly going a long time.

I was woken this morning by a hawk calling overhead. That’s Hobeni for you.

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