Feb 05

Amaoti (Amawoti)

by in History & Memories

Inanda as an umbrella, under it is has a small and hardly known community towards it north known as Amaoti (Amawoti). Amaoti is a small community yet has gigantic and relevant history. Ranging from the area being at one stage a forest with numbered houses and families on its upper hill, and rivers on it low veld where illegal ‘Gavin’ were found; to the area once belonged to Indian people (Indian Community)- Old Indians’ Built houses are evident and plants: mango trees, blackberry tress, Banana trees, Cane sugar, to mention a few. The area also comprises the history of wars of mid and late 80s including that of 1940s: Riot (African vs. Indians settlers), Political instabilities (Inkatha (IFP) followers against ANC followers.

Pity, all of the above mentioned histories are only delivered orally, and it is undoubtedly that it is not recorded anywhere or safe kept on archives somewhere for the benefit of the current and next generations. As of this reason it is of a concern and worry that if these current living legends and reliable source passes on, surely and probably this golden rich history and heritage of Amaoti, like the smoke in the air, will vanish and never available to the attention of the next generations to come.

An Informal interview I had with Jabulani, a middle-aged man from Flagstaff- a small town in Eastern Cape, who arrived for stay at Amaoti in early 80s. He happens to be a vibrant Entrepreneur (owning an enterprise called ‘Zamakhonde enterprises’ as well as Securities, and also a Constructor), an Activist, and well as a Politician…

Within the interview he briefed me more about the ins and outs of the area of Amaoti, far way before it became what it is right now, today. He took me back, reminiscing about good and bad times of the ancient (then) Amaoti:

Amaoti, before it became a society (community) it was then a forest, covered in bush with numbered houses in the area, thus situated only on the upper-hill side of the area, and the forest or bushes on the low lying area, by the river, Ohlange River. The forest and the rivers, including the minor rivers or lakes, were; however, used by the illegal ‘Gavin’ Brewers to store, prepare, cook, distil, and sell their product to their consumers.
Likewise, alongside rivers were huge smoke black drums used to cook the Gavin (and some are still there even today). The brewers used gorges and river sides because they could dodge policemen, and however, police vans had no access to places which were used to brew the Gavin, so whenever police approached they would be seen far before they reach to the scene, and brewers would run up the hill, leaving the place as clean as ever.

Moreover, brewers used to deploy women who would sit before their houses in the hill to watch for police “Mellow Yellow” van as it comes down the hills of Ohlange, a mile or two, away from Amaoti, and alert them whenever the van comes. It is said that, as they see the police van coming down, the women would scream like hell “Meleko!” for they struggled to pronounce “Mellow Yellow”, which was the name used to refer to the then yellow police vans, and immediately, the brewers would pack their stuff and leave the place, and by the time police reach to the place, brewers would be far gone up the hill.Furthermore, those women who did the brilliant job in alerting the brewers from police would, in return, be compensated with a nip of the product “Gavin” to quench their thirst per day; however, it is unknown of how many women would be deployed.

Nonetheless, like in any other business, legal or not, would be its moguls or big names, here too in the Gavin so-called factory had their own moguls or gurus and masters of the market whom were dominion on the time. One mogul that Jabulani still remember was by the name of Somtshazi, from Eastern Cape, Flagstaff. He, however, was not a founder of the factory or the product, and therefore it is still unknown and has no evident of who really discovered the Gavin. Amazingly, the Gavin is still brewed even today, and the majority, almost every Gavin Brewers had and have never worked for any employer, thus are self-employed, and are making a living out of Gavin….

Sihle Mkhamisa, November 2012

For more information on certain organizations or events mentioned in this post click on one of the links below:

History of the IFP (South African History online)

History of the ANC (South African History online)

Durban Riots of 1949 (South African History Online)

This post is also available in: Zulu

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