Mandela Day and a tribute to Johnny Clegg | EcoTraining Mashatu Camp

In 2009, the United Nations declared that July 18th, Mabida’s birthday would be celebrated internationally as Mandela Day. In tribute to the 67 years that he fought for equality and social justice, communities, businesses and individuals were tasked with ‘giving back’ for 67 minutes.

At EcoTraining Mashatu camp, the EcoTracker students, together with their instructors, celebrated Mandela and the icon and musician Johnny Clegg,  who had passed away days earlier.

EcoTraining Group

EcoTraining Students

Under the guidance of the EcoTraining instructors, the students on the tracking course set out on a conservation walk to clean up as their contribution to Mandela Day 2019.

Dung Beetle Ball

Dung beetle ball (c) David Batzofin

Instead of just walking along the banks of the Motloutse and Limpopo Rivers, picking up discarded waste, the walk became a learning experience for all involved. This dung beetle ball had been broken open by a honey badger and the grub inside made for a tasty snack for this voracious forager.

Juggling with a dung beetle balls

Juggling with a dung beetle balls (c) David Batzofin

That being said, if you have the balls, then you might as well juggle with them. Claudia, one of the international students shows off her skills.

Tree story

When seeing a tree that has had the bark stripped by elephants, it is not the only story that can be told. As instructor Norman pointed out to the group. “Yes, the removal of the bark might kill or damage the tree, but it also opens up a veritable micro-ecosystem for both insects and other mammals”.

Not taking

Note taking (c) David Batzofin

In order not to have to remember everything, many of the students took to taking copious and very detailed notes. And they did it ‘old-school’. No digital notes on this walk.

Some of the garbage

Some of the garbage (c) David Batzofin (c)

One of the students found this shoe…just part of the vast array of human detritus that was collected during the 67 minutes.

Norman hiding in a hole

David Batzofin (cc)

Both the Motloutse and Limpopo Rivers are seasonal, and at this time of year, they are bone dry. Elephants looking for water will dig deep holes to find sub-terranean water for the herd.

Mexican poppy

Mexican poppy

The invasive species that the students were tasked with removing was the noxious Mexican Poppy weed. An import from South America, it has no uses at all and it competes with the local vegetation. In the fading sunlight, there was not a lot that could be removed

Anal paste of a civet (c) David Batzofin

And finally, something that the students had not had the opportunity to smell before. The anal paste of a civet. To their surprise, it smelled sweeter than expected and had an almost perfume quality to it.

burning elephant dung

David Batzofin (cc)

The last lesson before heading back to the vehicles… elephant dung, when lit is used by certain of the local communities to ward off evil spirits.


Sunset (c) David Batzofin

A fitting way to end off a very special day


Night sky at Mashatu (c) David Batzofin

Under a clear sky, filled with a multitude of stars and planets, the group took time around the campfire, paying tribute with words and the music of legendary musician, Johnny Clegg.

around the fire

Paying tribute to Johnny Clegg (c) Norman Chauke

In the quiet of the bush, warmed by the crackling flames and sitting under the clear African sky, there was no better way to close of a day like no other.

All the students agreed that it was a day that they would never forget.

Hamba Kahle Johnny, thank you for the music and thank you to Tata Madiba for his legacy. Let us never forget.