Pensioner forced to live under tree for 18 years

KNOWS SUFFERING: Mavhimbhani Manganyi, 63, has lived under a tree for 18 years. The homeless Manganyi said she fled from her home country, Mozambique, in 1989 to escape the civil war. Pic. Victor Hlungwani. © Sowetan.
KNOWS SUFFERING: Mavhimbhani Manganyi, 63, has lived under a tree for 18 years. The homeless Manganyi said she fled from her home country, Mozambique, in 1989 to escape the civil war. Pic. Victor Hlungwani. © Sowetan.

Victor Hlungwani

Victor Hlungwani

A tree is where people find shelter from the heat of the sun, but for a 63-year-old woman in Giyani, Limpopo, it is home.

Granny Mavhimbhani Manganyi has been living under the tree for 18 years, since she arrived in South Africa from Mozambique in 1989.

"I ran away from my country during the civil war - but I did not expect that I would have to live under a tree," said Manganyi.

"I know very well what suffering means. I have no choice but to live like this."

Carlos Mathebula, 69, a shack dweller who lives next to Manganyi's tree, said he knows the granny from his home country, Mozambique.

"I know her very well. She used to survive by selling tomatoes when she arrived in South Africa. But she stopped that when she became sick," said Mathebula.

"There is nothing we can do about her situation because we are also poor."

Mathebula said Manganyi was able to survive because people gave her food and money.

"I do not have an identity document so I do not qualify for an old-age pension," she said.

"Every time I go to the Home Affairs offices to apply for an ID, the officials tell me that I cannot have one because I am a foreigner."

She said her situation was so bad that her four-year-old son died of starvation.

But hunger is not her only problem.

Manganyi said it was dangerous to live under the tree because thugs frequently threatened and attacked her.

"Sometimes thugs come during the night to terrorise me.

"When they come I scream to alert the community. I rely on my neighbours for protection."

Silence Makhubele, the municipal manager for Greater Giyani, said the municipality was not aware of Manganyi's situation.

"I will ask our community development section to urgently assess the old woman's situation.

"We will see how we can help her," said Makhubele.

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