Fri Oct 21 02:42:40 SAST 2016

Poor, bereaved woman's tireless fight against authorities pays off

By unknown | Feb 06, 2007 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

Doreen Zimbizi

Doreen Zimbizi

Death happens every day. But each time you hear that someone has died, you almost always react the same way. "Ag, shame," is the standard response. Worse when it's a child. Your heart goes out to the bereaved family, the mother especially, if you are a woman.

Almost two years ago Sowetan readers were introduced to Nobuhle Ndlebe, under very tragic circumstances. What should have been a very happy period in her life - the birth of her twin sons - rapidly turned into a nightmare that would haunt her for a long time.

Her little boys died soon after birth. Her mourning was rudely interrupted by even more heartbreak, the hospital where her children died lost one of the bodies.

In her grief, she decided that she would only bury her boys once the Department of Health had given her back her baby.

A long struggle followed. Many promises to help her were not met. With the help of Sowetan, she pressured the department to grant her her wish to give her babies a decent burial.

Ndlebe is poor. The fact that she was so determined to stand up to the authorities and demand her dignity and that of her children is an amazing story that needs to be told over and over again to inspire other people like her.

Then last week, her wish was granted. The department offered to help her bury her children.

On Friday I visited Ndlebe at her home in Primrose on the East Rand. Photographer Veli Nhlapo and I were to deliver to the grieving mother R5000 from Sowetan to help her out with the funeral.

As we drove I kept wondering what I was going to say to her. While it felt like I knew Ndlebe personally, having followed her tragic story since it began, I was lost for words. I was not prepared for the meeting when we finally knocked on her door.

Once inside her shack we were greeted by sadness and sorrow. Seated near the door was her brother Siviwe. Nobuhle lay on the bed, looking sad and very tired. As we sat down, she sat up, pulled on a jacket and covered her head with a doek. Slowly, she looked up to acknowledge us. Two candles were burning, for her babies.

On the small coffee table next to the bed were a package of inkomasi, half a loaf of bread, an artificial red rose and a Valentine's coffee mug. I wondered quietly if Ndlebe was in love again. I also wondered if she had eaten anything that morning. She looked weak.

After introducing ourselves I knelt next to her bed and offered my condolences. I asked if the preparations to take the remains of Lindokuhle and Lindelani home had been finalised. She responded quietly.

Then I got stuck, what else could I offer this woman, so overwhelmed by grief? We were there for less than 10 minutes, but it felt like forever.


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