The Chennels family founded the ZBC and have been in Eshowe for over 90 years. They have been actively involved in the community as well as in the rural community upliftment projects. In 1978 the late Guy Chennells started the ECAG (Eshowe Community Action Group), an NGO registered under the Welfare Act operating in South Africa. Nearly all funds raised, totalling over R250- Million, have been through the Eshowe Rotary Club. The late Prince Gideon Zulu was chairman from inception and was a direct descendant of King Mpanda. Present chairman is Jethro Mdlalose who is principal of the Tembelasizwe School. The Eshowe Community Action Group is a Non-Profit Organisation, operating for 32 years in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. Their main objective is to provide classrooms for underprivileged children.
In 1977, The Eshowe Community Action Group (ECAG), under the umbrella of the rotary Club of Eshowe, inspired farmers and businessmen to build the first 12 classrooms at King Zwelithini High School. The ECAG works closely with the Department of Education, Principals and Communities, forging a meaningful partnership that has made discernible contributions to the success of rural education.
The project area covers a radius of approximately 4 000 square kilometres, incorporating uThukela River down South to Kosi Bay in the North. The Eshowe Community Action Group does not offer handouts. The schools have to provide a deposit of R4 000 per classroom and are put onto a waiting list. To date, they have built over 2 600 class rooms, constructed 17 laboratories with gas and water reticulation, installed one thousand 5 000 litre plastic water tanks on bases, 1 200 ventilated inlet pipe long drop toilets, libraries and administration blocks. Over 100 new schools have been established, and 120 old schools extended.
The challenge continues. There is still a huge shortage of some 2 300 classrooms in Northern KwaZulu- Natal.
Eshowe is the oldest town in KwaZulu-Natal, and has a rich history. Although it is a popular tourist destination because of its Anglo-Zulu war connection and indigenous Dhlinza forest, Eshowe is now a small agricultural and trading district that’s made its mark through the success of this local brew. Once the company has grown enough locally to hire local people, explains Richard Chennells, he looks forward to carrying on his family legacy of rural upliftment in Zululand.