The rains have come and the hills of Msinga, KwaZulu-Natal, are green again. The stench of rotting cattle that clogged the air in October, November and December is gone, but here and there white ribcages of the thousands of cattle that have died dot the fields. The toll on the 75,000 cattle farmers in the area has been great. By YVES VANDERHAEGHEN & DONNA HORNBY.
"Look at the green," says Rauri Alcock from Mdukatshani land NGO. "It's just devil thorns under the bush. There's no grass." A closer look reveals the pretty yellow flowers of the devil's thorn, but indeed no grass. Even the aloes are dying. Brown skeletons of dead acacia trees break the pattern of low treetops.
The Tugela is looking its big brown self again, but even there, looks are deceptive. Alcock fully expects that both the Tugela and the Mooi River, which dwindled to a trickle this summer before the rains came, will dry up come winter. "What you see now is the winter level," he says, pointing at the river. "Big rains come, the river rises, but then it settles back to this. And winter is still to come."