When all you have is a pot of boiled beans

DESOLATION ROW: The Mhlongo family live in a dilapidated rondavel and survive on the meagre pension of a grandparent. Pic: MHLABA MEMELA. 19/10/2009.© Sowetan.
DESOLATION ROW: The Mhlongo family live in a dilapidated rondavel and survive on the meagre pension of a grandparent. Pic: MHLABA MEMELA. 19/10/2009.© Sowetan.

THE PLIGHT of the destitute Mhlongo family of KwaBayeni, near Ulundi, highlights how poverty afflicts people in rural areas.

THE PLIGHT of the destitute Mhlongo family of KwaBayeni, near Ulundi, highlights how poverty afflicts people in rural areas.

The family of 10 is so poor that they all live in a dilapidated rondavel that also serves as their kitchen.

When Sowetan visited the family they were busy eating a pot of boiled beans and pap, gratefully accepted from a caring neighbour.

"No one is employed in this family and we survive on the meagre old-age pension of umkhulu (Sakhanempi Mhlongo) or through handouts from neighbours," said Mhlongo's wife Thwaliwe.

Thwaliwe, 61, has never had an ID. Her daughters, Bonisiwe, 33, and Bawinile, 26, are illiterate.

And five young grandchildren don't get child support grants because they have no birth certificates.

Added to the family's suffering is that Thwaliwe's mother, Hlushiwe, 79, has joined them after her other children died.

Though Hlushiwe gets an old-age grant, she sometimes does not receive it because authorities cite "problems" with her thumbprints.

"The ID problem has resulted in suffering for my children and their children," Thwaliwe said. "This has not only deprived us of state grants . we don't exist because we don't have identities."

Thwaliwe said all her previous attempts to obtain an ID were unsuccessful so she simply gave up.

"First and foremost, one needs to have R54 return fare to go to Ulundi or Mashona to apply. This is the kind of money we can use to buy food instead," she said tearfully.

She said she did not remember the last time she had a peaceful sleep.

"We are too many to be crammed in one rondavel and I often sit next to the door because that's the only space available."

Bawinile said she collects wood to sell and the little money she gets is used to buy school uniforms for her kids.

Social development department spokesperson Mandla Ngema told Sowetan they would assist the family.

"We have already sent our regional officials to investigate and see what sort of help the family requires."

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