Now 68 kids lose their loving protector

Dudu Busani

Dudu Busani

Siyabonga Mhlongo has died - leaving his dream of finding a home for his 68 children unfulfilled.

Mhlongo, 31, died in hospital of TB at the weekend .

Seven years ago he founded the Rosca Children's Home and was last year's Young Community Builder of the Year.

Kansas Zwane, a friend of Mhlongo and coordinator at Rosca, said: "He was a visionary who led by example. His life was filled with struggles, but he always stood up for what he believed.

"If not for him all these children would be wandering the streets. They are taking his death very hard."

Mhlongo, a former community radio DJ, left his home in KwaSwayimane, in rural KwaZulu-Natal, to look for greener pastures in Johannesburg 10 years ago.

When the pastures turned out to be not at all green, he worked as a child counsellor at the Hillbrow Clinic.

"His love for children started then.

"He realised he was good with them and that when he talked, they listened," Zwane said.

"He realised he was brought into this world to be a caregiver."

After a few months in his job at the clinic Mhlongo had turned his bachelor flat into a soup kitchen and taken in 15 children from the streets of Hillbrow.

An international charity organisation, Right Now Youth Foundation, donated a church house in Roodepoort for Mhlongo to use as a child sanctuary.

Last year, on the night Mhlongo was named Young Community Builder of the Year, he returned to find the sanctuary in flames.

Everything was destroyed and he was out on the streets with 60 children.

At the time of his death, Mhlongo was taking care of 68 children in a rented house.

His dream had always been to find a home the children he called his own could call their own.

Mhlongo will be buried in KwaZulu-Natal this weekend.