Elderly woman flees to SA as Zimbabwe flounders

FED UP: Betty Radebe. Pic. 22/03/2007. © Unknown
FED UP: Betty Radebe. Pic. 22/03/2007. © Unknown

Frank Maponya

Frank Maponya

Hunger, starvation and political violence in Zimbabwe have forced an 83-year-old granny to flee to South Africa.

Betty Radebe, who claims she was born in Germiston, Gauteng, in 1924, married Edward Mashaba, a Mozambican whom she met in Germiston that same year.

When her parents died, the couple settled in Mashaba's home in Mozambique in 1959.

She says that in Mozambique she fell ill regularly, forcing the couple to relocate to what was then Salisbury, Rhodesia, only two months after arriving in the former Portuguese colony.

Radebe's husband died in 1985 and since then she had been a domestic worker in Bulawayo, where her life became difficult until she decided to call it quits. Her situation was exacerbated by the political violence that has engulfed Zimbabwe.

She related her heart-wrenching story to Sowetan shortly after arriving in Polokwane on Tuesday. She was transported to Polokwane by officials of the Department of Health and Social Development.

"Life in Zimbabwe has been very difficult for me," she said. "I was even forced to sell some of my clothes in order to get money for bus fare to Musina.

"It became even worse when President Robert Mugabe's regime started to attack the opposition.

"I tried hard to stomach the atrocities happening in that country until recently when I felt I had had enough."

Though she joined the ZCC in 1988 in Zimbabwe, she has never been to the church's headquarters in Moria.

The other factor that motivated her to come to our shores was that the woman who employed her died last year, leaving her without a job.

Radebe, whose daughter died in an accident in 1958, is unsure about her future. Since her daughter's death, she has had at least five miscarriages.

She still carries a dompas - the old apartheid ID she acquired in South Africa in 1959.

"I'm happy to be back in my home country. I'd rather die here than face the hardships in Zimbabwe," she said.

Phuti Seloba, spokesman for the provincial Department of Health and Social Development, said Radebe would be kept at the Sekutupu Old Age Home in Zebediela outside Polokwane, while arrangements were being made with the Department of Home Affairs to get papers for her permanent residence in the country.

He said many people, including children, were coming to South Africa because of the volatile situation in Zimbabwe.