Family of seven lives on R7.65 each a day

2011-07-04 12:34

He has more than 20 years’ work experience behind him but all he has to show for it is a cramped three-room house on a farm in Randfontein, in the Vaal, and a troubling back injury that he got while working last year.

But his dilapidated house and injury are the least of his worries. He ekes out a living for his family on the R1500 that he earns working as a farm labourer. This means that each member of his family lives on R7.65 a day (calculated on 28 days).

“It is hard to survive on the money my husband earns because it makes no difference in our lives,” says his wife Salome Ngoepe, gazing at the small window that has been neatly taped with a sack to keep out the winter chill.

Masilela tries his utmost to ­ensure that his family’s needs are met but it’s hard to provide for the seven family members who share the modest home.

There is no electricity or running water, and to add to their woes, Masilela’s injury means he has to fork out what little money he has every time he goes for treatment.

“My husband has become very sickly since the accident (a machine fell on him while at work) and as a result he is constantly in hospital,” says Ngoepe.

“This situation is very hard on us, especially for our five children who depend on us,” says Ngoepe, fighting back tears. Three of their children are still at school.

“I wish that my children could have the same things as other children but this is not always possible with the R500 that we allocate to all of them (monthly),” she says.

No one understands this struggle more than Ngoepe’s 17-year-old neighbour, who had to drop out of school after her parents, who are in the same predicament as Masilela, could not support her on their meagre salary.
“I just could not handle the fact that they could not provide me with uniforms, a schoolbag and stationery, so I stopped attending school,” says Poulinah Smous.

Her mother, Elizabeth Smous, says: “It breaks my heart to see her sitting at home but there is nothing I can do. I don’t have the means to help her with what she needs. The money is simply not there.”

“We sometimes go to bed hungry because once the money comes in, it quickly goes out,” she says. “It also does not help that we are always in debt. We have to ­constantly borrow money just so that we can survive.”

Ngoepe says: “At the end of the day I am just thankful if we have some mealie meal and washing-powder because those are the things that matter most.

“As for the rest, we will just see. At least we have a roof over our heads,” she says, looking around their sparsely furnished home.

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