8 February 2021
Every morning, a group of about 20 women gather on the Msunduzi River bank in Ehhashini location, outside Pietermaritzburg. Here they make bricks from mud and grass to earn a living.
They started their project way back in 2006.
“We learn from each other,” says Ziningi Phetha, who joined the group after her husband died.
“Our families depend on us. We have managed to pay school fees for our grandchildren with the money we get from selling these bricks,” she says.
“We use our hands and feet to mix the mud,” she explains. “We dig the soil to make the mixture … mix it with grass to tighten the bricks. The grass makes the bricks stronger. Everything we need is here.”
Mavis Hlongwa, who is 62, said the community knows their work and they get orders for bricks from the local residents.
“Local residents have been of great support. We call our project Vuka Uzenzele (“Wake up and do it yourself”). All of us have no husbands. We are not depending on anyone but on this mud. I’m able to pay school fees for my grandchildren. There’s not a day I go to bed without having food to eat. My family is taken care of. Some of us are taking care of our grandchildren who are orphans. This mud and grass is our survival,” says Hlongwa.
Doris Mkhize, who is 60, says she built her home using the bricks she made with her own hands. Mkhize said many residents build with mud bricks.
“No one taught us brick laying. Seeing how cement bricks were made, we tried the same method using mud. The measuring boxes we use are made of wood. We made the boxes ourselves,” says Mkhize.
Mkhize said rain is a challenge, as the bricks need to dry in the sun.
“Sometimes our tools are stolen. We are appealing for help from anyone who could assist us with more tools. We need a safe shelter where we can keep the bricks and tools safe,” says Mkhize.