The price we have to pay?

By Drum Digital
25 August 2010

SHE rocks slowly back and forth in a chair, her eyes closed as if in a trance as she mutters the names of her twins over and over again. Both of her babies died in the same hospital, in the same ward, almost exactly a year apart.

It sounds too grim to be true, but there’s no mistaking the despair on the face of this young mother.

Zanele Nxumalo (24) of Marimba Gardens in Vosloorus, Ekurhuleni, speaks in a voice barely louder than a whisper. “I know the pain of a strike,” she says. “It has hit me hard.”

Adding to her grief is the fact that she is unemployed and doesn’t know where she’s going to get money to bury her child. She lives with her unemployed mother, Catherine Nxumalo (54), and her young sister, Nonhlanhla (14) who receives a state child grant of R250. The father of the twins, Cedric Mokome (28), works as a parttime cashier at a supermarket.

The heartbroken mom’s ordeal began just over a year ago when she gave birth to premature twins at Natalspruit Hospital in Katlehong near Germiston. The girl, Lehlohonolo, died a month later – but Zanele could not bury her because a municipal strike meant there was no one to dig her grave.

“She was kept in the mortuary for weeks as we waited for the strike to end. The undertaker eventually negotiated with some striking workers to help us,” a tearful Zanele says.

Her second trauma began when her son, Lesego, was admitted to Natalspruit Hospital with broncho-pneumonia the day before the strike began on 18 August. When she returned to visit him the following morning she passed nurses picketing, singing and toyi-toying outside the hospital.

The place was in chaos and she went straight to the children’s ward where she found her son – and he was clearly in trouble. His body was stiff and greenish and there was blood in his mouth and on his drip.

“There was one nurse in the ward looking after 29 babies,” Zanele recalls. “The nurse asked me to nebulise Lesego because he was battling to breathe. The ward was locked because the nurse was afraid the striking workers might attack her.

“After a few minutes she told me and other parents to leave because she was scared if the strikers saw movement inside the ward, they’d know she was working. So we waited outside.”

Later in the afternoon the doors were unlocked and they were told to quickly check their children. That was when she found Lesego dead.

For the full article read DRUM of 2 September 2010

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