Verdwaal: A place of woe

2011-11-26 17:17

In Verdwaal, children with swollen stomachs and thin legs play in the dusty streets, their smiles almost too broad for their emaciated faces.

This is where Martha Mmupele (44) lives in a two-bedroomed house. There are nine people who live in the house permanently; others come and go.

She holds back tears when she tells us about the tragedy that befell her family. They live in Itsoseng, near Lichtenburg in North West.

On October 24, her two sons, Sebengu (nine) and Mapule (seven), and two grandchildren, Nkune (six) and Onkarabile (two), left home to follow Elizabeth Mmupele (27), the mother of the two younger ones.

Elizabeth was on her way to Martha, who had temporary employment on a farm, to try to get some food.

“By that time, they had already been without food for a few days,” Martha explains.

Elizabeth did not know her hungry sons and brothers were following her, and the children lost their way.

On October 27, the bodies of Nkune and Onkarabile were found on a farm. On November 8, the bodies of Sebengu and Mapule were found a few kilometres further.

“They died from hunger, thirst and the sun,” a heartbroken Martha said.

“They walked a long way and it was so hot, but they were hungry. My heart has broken because of their suffering.”

Martha is sickly but she tries to work. Her husband has temporary work but he earns very little.

She doesn’t get a subsidy from the state, not even for her sister’s two orphan children living with her because she has no identity document.

“There were problems with the spelling of my surname. I applied for my ID book in June but I didn’t get it, so I don’t get a cent from the state. The people here are all suffering.”

Grace Lond, another resident of Verdwaal, confirms this.

“There’s no food in my house. He will go to bed hungry tonight,” she says, looking at her toddler, Onkarabetsi (two), on her lap.

“There isn’t work for everyone here, and grants are very few. We survive by asking others.”

The organisation Gift of the Givers visited Verdwaal on Wednesday and distributed R200 000 of food parcels to ease the worst of the hunger pangs.

They will distribute food on Tuesday again, accompanied by dieticians to address the malnutrition.

“As a nation, we have failed. Our morality, spirituality and humanity must be in a mess. These are our children in our Africa who died a preventable death in our presence,” said Allaudin Sayed from Gift of the Givers.

There are more than 10 mouths to feed in the house where Martha lives. Porridge and a piece of chicken “that a social worker brought” are cooked on a fire because there is no electricity or running water.

Everyone starts eating immediately, when Martha realises no one has saved anything for her and the pots are empty. Elizabeth, who is seven months pregnant, shares the little she has with her mother.

What they will be eating tomorrow, nobody knows.

» For more information, call Gift of the Givers on 0800786911 or visit

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