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Now that we are in power, not only are our sys­tems in­ef­fi­cient but we of­ten fail the masses who are still liv­ing in poverty

CityPress - - Voices -

The City Press ar­ti­cle “They may as well kill us” (March 5 2017), which was about the plight of the peo­ple of Nqwashu vil­lage, East­ern Cape, caught my eye. One sen­tence read: “Mat­shintsholo Lu­vela (71) says she is the sole bread­win­ner, sup­port­ing a fam­ily of five on a R1 500 pen­sion.” Déjà vu!

This is my story dur­ing the apartheid era. My grand­mother sup­ported a fam­ily of 11, four adults and seven chil­dren. Why am I read­ing this now? Are we re­gress­ing as a coun­try, or did we sim­ply stop car­ing? I can’t be­lieve that, 23 years into our hard-earned democ­racy, we still have this sce­nario in South Africa.

Social grants plant the first seed of ed­u­ca­tion for many poor fam­i­lies. They are used to pay school fees (in my case) and buy school uni­forms. My grand­mother’s pen­sion sup­ported me for 16 years. When I passed my ma­tric and there was no money for ter­tiary ed­u­ca­tion, my grand­mother gave me money to look for a job. The day she gave me her last penny she said, “This is my last money, my child; I don’t know what will hap­pen if you don’t get a job to­day.” Guess what? I got my job that day!

Four weeks later she suc­cumbed to can­cer of the oe­soph­a­gus. She never re­ceived an­other pen­sion. She never held money in her hands again. How­ever, the last penny of her pen­sion started my ca­reer.

Most of the peo­ple who hold cushy po­si­tions to­day grew up dur­ing the apartheid era, which means they have a story sim­i­lar to mine. They know what it’s like to be with­out, to be in need, and to have noth­ing. The prob­lem we have to­day is se­lec­tive mem­ory. The haves have for­got­ten what it’s like to be a have-not.

Here is a shame about this saga: While the social grants dur­ing the apartheid gov­ern­ment were a pit­tance that came once in two months, they were paid re­li­giously the en­tire 16 years of my life. Was this be­cause of how much the white regime cared about the poor black peo­ple? I doubt it. It was be­cause of

The Nqwashu peo­ple fur­ther lamented: “If we don’t have social grants, it will be the end for us.” I say, no, it won’t be. It will take more than un­paid social grants to bring about your end. You will still be here on April 2 and stronger than when you went to sleep on the 1st, with or with­out social grants.

God made us strong to sur­vive. He cre­ated us with in­ter­nal re­silience. That is how we sur­vived the op­pres­sion un­der the apartheid regime. Whether the SA Social Se­cu­rity Agency pays the social grants on April 1 or not, you will be al­right.

The white peo­ple op­pressed us for years but we have now been lib­er­ated for 23 years. Few peo­ple have be­come very wealthy since the dawn of democ­racy.

The ques­tion we should be ask­ing is: What are we do­ing to lift oth­ers as we rise? What are we do­ing to ease the yoke of poverty on those who are still where they were 23 years ago?

If there are black fam­i­lies in this day and age who are still de­pen­dent on social grants for sur­vival, when there are few who have more than enough, then what colour of op­pres­sors are we? Slat­sha is a di­rec­tor of Gen­tle Whis­per Min­istries in Port El­iz­a­beth

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