Hungry, elderly people left to beg


DESPERATE: These elderly Komani residents beg for food every Friday at a local restaurant in Schlebusch Street. The women and men beg for different reasons but all have been doing it for many years out of desperation Picture: ABONGILE SOLUNDWANA

A few local businesses give them help

A group of elderly people from Mlungisi beg for food, money and clothes in the Komani CBD every Friday.

About a dozen of them sat on the pavement in Dugmore Street sharing some fish, chips and rolls they had received from a restaurant in Cathcart Road two weeks ago.

After they had finished eating, they gathered to queue for coins at a local laundry.

They said the “beautiful” Indian woman who gave them the coins was always willing to help them.

An 88-year-old mother said she had started begging more than 38 years ago.

“I started begging as a domestic worker because the money was too little for me to support my family.

“When I stopped working, my children took care of me, but when five of them died, I had to go back to begging because the one who is alive does not have a job.”

She lives with her three grandchildren, who are in grades 7, 4 and 2 in Khayelitsha.

“I use the grant money to pay for monthly funeral premiums because I do not want us to struggle with a burial.

“The rest of the money goes on groceries.”

Another mother, 74, said she had been begging for more than 20 years.

“My 19-year-old grandson lives with me but his grant period has reached an end and my other grandchild lives in Ezibeleni.

“Their mothers both died.

“Today I got a few coins, but they did not total R10,” she said.

“My son and his wife keep my pension card.

“They buy groceries which are kept at their house and pay for my funeral policy.

“I only go to them when I have run out of certain food items, but they refuse to give me my card.

“My house is falling apart, my windows need fixing and I fill bottles with water to keep my doors closed as they are worn.”

On Friday, there were 20 beggars queuing at the fish and chips outlet in Cathcart Road, where they received 50 cents each.

A 67-year-old Joe Slovo resident has been part of the group for 14 years since her job as a domestic worker ended.

“What depresses me most is that four of my children are not working so I use my grant to cover their funeral policies.

“I use some of the money to pay for my stove, but there is not enough for groceries. I got R2 from one of the butcheries and if there is meat they give it to us.

“I live with my youngest son, who works part-time on Saturdays and Sundays.”

A disabled 50-year-old man said he lost his arm while working at a zinc factory in George.

“I received R10,000 in compensation and had to return to Komani the next year because I could no longer work.

“Today we got 50 cents from a fish and chips store in Cathcart Road because there were many of us. When there are few, we receive R1.”

Another beggar, 66, from Nomzamo, struggles to walk and complained of chronic back pain and leg pain.

“Things got worse after my wife died in 2010. She was the main breadwinner because I did not work. The grant is not enough because I live with four of my children who do not have permanent jobs.

“Some businessmen chase us out harshly and it is painful.”

A restaurant worker said the owner bought the beggars bread every Friday and gave them fish from his chain of restaurants.

Social development department spokesperson Gcobani Maswana urged people to report cases where other people had taken away their social grant cards.

He said the department was there to help.

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