Rights?

OR Tambo’s birth vil­lage is be­ing used to cel­e­brate Hu­man Rights Day, but res­i­dents there still lack the most ba­sic ser­vices

CityPress - - News - LUBABALO NGCUKANA lubabalo.ngcukana@city­press.co.za

While the coun­try gets ready to mark Hu­man Rights Day, res­i­dents in the vil­lage where for­mer ANC pres­i­dent Oliver Tambo was born say they have lit­tle to cel­e­brate. Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma is ex­pected to be the key­note speaker on Tues­day dur­ing Hu­man Rights Day cel­e­bra­tions in King Wil­liam’s Town, 432km south­west of Tambo’s birth­place in Nkan­tolo, East­ern Cape, un­der the theme, The Year of OR Tambo: Unity in Ac­tion in Ad­vanc­ing Hu­man Rights.

But res­i­dents of Nkan­tolo and sur­round­ing vil­lages say they at­tach no value to the cel­e­bra­tions be­cause every day is a strug­gle.

For them, the rights to wa­ter, health­care, food, proper hous­ing, a qual­ity ed­u­ca­tion for their chil­dren and hu­man dig­nity, en­shrined in chap­ter 2 of the Con­sti­tu­tion, ex­ist mainly for other peo­ple.

“We don’t have a clinic in our vil­lage. Last year, my grand­child was burnt by boil­ing wa­ter and we had to travel more than 5km to the near­est clinic. If we had one in our vil­lage here in Esikhum­beni, we would not be trav­el­ling that long for such a mi­nor thing,” says Zazi Faku.

Faku (59), a mar­ried fa­ther with five chil­dren and five grand­chil­dren, used to work on the mines as a driver. He says 23 years is a long time to still be com­plain­ing about ba­sic hu­man rights un­der a gov­ern­ment voted for by the coun­try’s ma­jor­ity.

On the sur­face, Nkan­tolo and its sur­round­ing vil­lages look peace­ful and quiet with their mod­est, mud homes flanked by mielie fields and gar­dens full of crops.

For Faku, ac­cess to health­care is the most im­por­tant un­de­liv­ered right in his neigh­bour­hood.

“Health­care is a huge prob­lem here be­cause, even after you have paid a lot of money to get to the clinic, when you ar­rive, you are told there is no med­i­ca­tion. We are also made to stand in long queues be­cause there is a short­age of nurses,” he says.

Faku’s clos­est clinic is Hla­man­dana Clinic, 5km away in an­other vil­lage, Ludeke, where Tambo at­tended school. Nkan­tolo is 10km away. Nkan­tolo’s vil­lagers go to the same clinic.

Faku’s neigh­bour, Mx­olisi Mpantsha (73), says that, for him, wa­ter and ac­cess to ed­u­ca­tion are the big­gest prob­lems. He says that when Zuma vis­its Mbizana at the end of the month, he hopes he will see the mis­ery of Tambo’s peo­ple for him­self.

“There is no wa­ter in all of Mbizana. We fight with cat­tle for drink­ing wa­ter. It is bet­ter now be­cause there has been rain in the past few weeks. We need wa­ter in Mbizana ur­gently. We can­not be ex­pected to drink from the same river as cows,” Mpantsha says.

Ac­cord­ing to fig­ures on Waz­imap, which were gath­ered from the 2011 cen­sus, in Mbizana’s Ward 27, where Nkan­tolo is sit­u­ated, only 0.2% of res­i­dents get their wa­ter from a re­gional or lo­cal ser­vice provider. Al­most 60% of res­i­dents get their wa­ter from a river and 34% get theirs from a spring.

More than 71% of the peo­ple have no elec­tric­ity at all, and 13.5% have no ac­cess to any toi­lets. Only one in 10 res­i­dents has a job, and only 11.4% of res­i­dents com­pleted their ma­tric or a higher qual­i­fi­ca­tion.

Mpantsha, a fa­ther of four, is also un­happy that there is no high school in his vil­lage.

“Is it not our chil­dren’s right to have ac­cess to ed­u­ca­tion? Why is it that our chil­dren are forced to walk 10km to get to a high school?” he asks.

In Nkan­tolo, Tambo’s nephew, Mzuk­isi Tambo (57), says his un­cle would have been dis­ap­pointed with the state of Mbizana if he was still alive.

The fa­ther of two, who lives at his un­cle’s home­stead, says he re­alised that not ev­ery­one was equal be­fore the law after the man who set the OR Tambo Gar­den of Re­mem­brance alight in 2014 was freed.

“The courts have a duty to pro­tect ev­ery­one, in­clud­ing those who are ac­cused of do­ing wrong. I don’t un­der­stand how a man who was ar­rested for dam­ag­ing a na­tional her­itage site can be let go that eas­ily. I am a bit dis­ap­pointed with the jus­tice sys­tem,” he says.

But Mzuk­isi is even more dis­ap­pointed by the fact that the her­itage site erected to hon­our his un­cle has been left in a state of dis­re­pair for the past three years.

When City Press vis­ited the gar­den this week, the two large ron­dav­els that were burnt down had still not been fixed.

Only the front sec­tion’s grass had been cut, while the rest of the site, in­clud­ing where Tambo’s par­ents are buried, is over­grown. The sin­gle se­cu­rity guard on the premises has no shel­ter and in­stead uses a shack that was meant to hold tools, where he sits on bricks be­cause there is no chair.

“No one from gov­ern­ment has both­ered to re­store the her­itage site to be a fit­ting trib­ute to OR,” Mzuk­isi says.

“This is the site where OR Tambo’s par­ents are buried. His um­bil­i­cal cord is also buried here. It is re­ally em­bar­rass­ing that gov­ern­ment can say it is cel­e­brat­ing my un­cle on one hand, while, on the other, it lets his mem­ory die like this.”

Mark­ing Hu­man Rights Day is the last thing on his mind.

“How can you cel­e­brate any­thing in a place where you are not even safe? There are high lev­els of crime here in Nkan­tolo, such as live­stock theft and house­break­ing. Be­cause peo­ple are un­em­ployed and poor, they tar­get those who have even a lit­tle and steal from them,” he says.

“There is no food or se­cu­rity here. Most peo­ple de­pend on grants, and even that help is now in jeop­ardy. As far as we are con­cerned, we are just like Tambo – a for­got­ten peo­ple.”

On Wed­nes­day, a large group of con­struc­tion work­ers were busy along the 15km stretch of road be­tween Nkan­tolo and the R61 to Mbizana. The dirt road lead­ing to Tambo’s birth­place is be­ing tarred as part of the East­ern Cape pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment’s plan to fix ru­ral roads.

Other work is be­ing done. Elec­tric­ity and pit toi­lets for each house­hold have largely been de­liv­ered. Rain­wa­ter tanks have also been sup­plied to each low­cost gov­ern­ment house.

But Nkan­tolo res­i­dent and ANC mem­ber Mongezi Phep­hetha (59) says he is still be­ing de­nied an RDP house. He lives with his girl­friend, Non­zame Madik­izela (61), in her fam­ily home.

“No one lis­tens to me in this vil­lage. They say the voice of a man who has no prop­erty is mean­ing­less,” he says.

“I don’t even have enough money to build a home be­cause the R1 500 dis­abil­ity grant I get sup­ports my large fam­ily. I have four chil­dren and 20 grand­chil­dren, and they all de­pend on me to sur­vive. Where is the right to equal­ity in this sit­u­a­tion? So, no, I don’t have much to cel­e­brate on Hu­man Rights Day,” he says.

PHO­TOS: LUBABALO NGCUKANA

FOR­GOT­TEN Neigh­bours Zazi Faku (right) and Mx­olisi Mpantsha chat about the prob­lems fac­ing Mbizana

DES­TI­TUTE OR Tambo’s nephew Mzuk­isi Tambo says the peo­ple of Mbizana, where his fa­mous un­cle comes from, have been for­got­ten and have noth­ing to cel­e­brate on Hu­man Rights Day

HIS­TOR­I­CAL A pic­ture of Nkan­tolo vil­lage, the birth­place of OR Tambo

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