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The peo­ple of Nqwashu vil­lage don’t know how they will sur­vive with­out the so­cial grants they have de­pended on for years. Nqwashu is on the out­skirts of Nta­bankulu, 35km south of Mount Ayliff, in the East­ern Cape. The vil­lage is sur­rounded by moun­tains, and the dirt road that leads there is in a ter­ri­ble state.

On the first day of each month, Nqwashu’s vil­lagers ride along that road packed on the back of de­crepit bakkies. They pay R36 for a re­turn trip to Nta­bankulu, or R60 re­turn to Kok­stad, and spend the en­tire day queu­ing for their so­cial grants.

The news that on April 1 they might not get their grants comes as a shock.

Mat­shintsholo Lu­vela (71) says she is the sole bread­win­ner at home, sup­port­ing a fam­ily of five on a R1 500 pen­sion.

“If we don’t have so­cial grants, it would be the end of us. They might as well kill us. This is the money we use to eat, go to hos­pi­tal and buy clothes and elec­tric­ity with. We don’t have any other way of sur­viv­ing ex­cept from these grants,” she says. “Our chil­dren are un­em­ployed. They are sit­ting at home and are sup­ported by us through this grant.”

Her un­em­ployed daugh­ter Veliswa (35) has a fouryear-old daugh­ter, so she re­ceives a R350 child sup­port grant.

“No grant means no uni­form for my daugh­ter. It means no food for her and no money to go to the clinic when she is ill. If gov­ern­ment stops the grants, it must at least give us jobs. With­out this grant, we will die. It is all we have,” she says.

The Lu­vela’s neigh­bour, Nosicelo Gon­goyi (25) is also un­em­ployed. She has a six-year-old daugh­ter and de­pends solely on her child grant to put food on the table, even for her­self.

“We are poor peo­ple and have nowhere to go ex­cept to look to gov­ern­ment to give us this grant. If they don’t pay us on April 1, it would re­ally hurt us,” she says.

Nqwashu is sit­u­ated in Nta­bankulu Ward 13, which has a pop­u­la­tion of 8 883 peo­ple. Waz­imap SA fig­ures, de­rived from the most re­cent cen­sus, show that 59% of house­holds are headed by women, and chil­dren com­prise 48% of the pop­u­la­tion. Only 11.5% of res­i­dents have jobs, and the av­er­age monthly in­come is R1 200.

Nqwashu only has one school – Nqwashu Ju­nior Sec­ondary – which teaches pupils in grades 1 to 9. But to con­tinue their school­ing, chil­dren have to walk long dis­tances to neigh­bour­ing vil­lages. Oth­ers opt to rent ac­com­mo­da­tion closer to their schools, for which they pay up to R300 a month. That money also comes from their so­cial grants and eats away at the bud­get for those left be­hind at home.

Al­though there is no wa­ter in the vil­lage – res­i­dents must fetch it from a river – some gov­ern­ment work seems to be tak­ing place. Some of the home­steads have newly built RDP houses, and each house­hold has elec­tric­ity and a pit toi­let.

For Nom­ahlubi Nx­ulu (80), one of Nqwashu’s el­dest vil­lagers, who lives with five grand­chil­dren and two great-grand­chil­dren, the op­tion of pay­ing peo­ple in cash at pay points is a fur­ther in­sult to the poor.

“If they are plan­ning to take us back to that era, it means our gov­ern­ment does not care about the poor. That will lead to a lot of peo­ple be­ing shot and killed be­cause that sys­tem at­tracts thugs to the pay sta­tions,” she says.

“Gov­ern­ment must do ev­ery­thing in its power to make this right. We can­not live with­out these grants and can­not af­ford not to have them. That is the re­al­ity. It must just find a so­lu­tion and stop play­ing with peo­ple’s liveli­hoods.”

Nx­ulu says her fam­ily sur­vives on her pen­sion, one of her grand­daugh­ter’s child sup­port grants, the grants for her two great-grand­chil­dren and a foster-care grant for a rel­a­tive’s child.

Nx­ulu grows veg­eta­bles and mealies to make sure there is some food at home.

Her un­em­ployed neigh­bour, Than­deka Qu­vana (46), says her grand­son and her sis­ter’s daugh­ter, who lives with her, also de­pend on grant money.

“How are we go­ing to buy food and clothes for the kids with­out their grant?” she asks.


DES­PER­ATE Phindiwe Mo­foka (25) says her child will have no food with­out the grant

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