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It's always been hard for the poor Van Niekerks

By unknown | Apr 25, 2008 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

Madala Thepa

Madala Thepa

Suzie van Niekerk is 73 years old and lives with her son Kobus, 50, in Bethlehem in a three-roomed house. She is the oldest resident in Bethlehem and came to live in the town five years ago.

The Van Niekerks left their flat in Capital Park, Pretoria, because they could no longer afford the R1500 rent.

"Now I hear it's about R2000," complains Kobus.

"We shower in cold water but it's better to stay here than sleep on the street. Here it's better because we get food every day, three times a day. It's much better because we have a project that we're busy with."

He worked for a security company as a supervisor in Pretoria. He left because he wasn't earning enough.

Kobus had a wife but they separated in 1981. He doesn't have children. His worldly possessions include a collage of paintings on the wall, a tiny black and white Solson television set which runs off a car battery, a fridge, fishing rods and an Alexandrine parakeet they call Gaddafi. There is only one bedroom where Kobus sleeps with his mother on the same bed. "I have to sleep there with her because when she goes outside and comes back she can't close the door," he says.

Suzie is in a wheelchair which she says was loaned to her. She says she tried to get a house after leaving Capital Park through the government after a promise, she says, was made to her more than 10 years ago.

Mother and son are in Bethlehem trying to make the best of a bad situation.

"Life before and now...," says Kobus. "I can't say there's a difference. It has always been like this."

Kobus has five siblings. His brother lives in Moloto Road in Pretoria and he often visits the family.

For now Bethlehem is their Utopia. The project in Bethlehem was started five years ago.


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