South Africa, Nigeria, Ghana and Kenya recently joined forces in an International Coastal Clean-Up initiative to keep Africa and its oceans clean.
Clean-ups were held at all four countries simultaneously, with a one-hour time difference separating South Africa and Kenya from Ghana and Nigeria.
UKZN’s PhD student in Marine Biology, lecturer and founder of the Refilwe Matlotlo Foundation, a non-profit organisation focused on conserving marine life, Ms Refilwe Mofokeng explained, ‘This is an international event and as Africans, we decided to communicate this message by using one banner, going against the recent xenophobic attacks.’
Students from the Pietermaritzburg campus were handed gloves, masks, plastic bags and data sheets (to record their findings) as they set off to clean the Durban Harbour.
Member of the Community Development Association club and Geography student, Ms Nikki Nzama said, ‘As an environmentalist on an international coastal clean-up day, I feel like I’ve made a valid impact on the community.’
Environmental Earth Sciences student and Operation Songamanzi representative, Ms Zingisa Tuswa remarked, ‘We are doing a good thing today by saving marine species and helping to save water for the environment, which is what our organisation is all about.’
During low tide, students were taken on a boat ride to pick up litter on an island, where Mofokeng joined students in getting her hands dirty.
Sponsors of the event included UKZN Life Sciences, the Royal Natal Yacht Club, Wild Ocean, Durban Solid Waste, the Ocean Conservancy and AMSOL.
Mofokeng explained the correlation between access to information and a decline in pollution. ‘It’s important to educate people on the significance of the ocean because taking care of the ocean shapes the life we know,’ she said.
Words: Hlengiwe Precious Khwela
Photographs: Albert Hirasen