Christmas spirit: Msunduzi steps in to help gogo care for 19 orphaned grandchildren

2010-12-23 00:00

GOGO Ernestina Mbambo cannot remember when last she celebrated Christmas. As far as the 82-year-old granny is concerned, this year will be the first time. Her mud hut in the informal settlement of Tembalihle in Eastwood is home to 22 people, 19 of whom are her orphaned grandchildren.

Ward councillor Mzwakhe Dladla and Msunduzi Municipality’s Area Based Management (ABM) team took her food, groceries and clothing so that the family could enjoy the festive fare this year. The children stood around watching, not certain whether the goods being off-loaded were for them. Gogo gave the instruction to take the parcels into the house and their faces lit up in broad grins as they rushed forward.

Dladla said he had heard about 22 people living in one house. He went to see for himself and was shocked to find the family crammed into the small space. “What was very upsetting was that they had no beds, and absolutely no food. The first thing we did was to provide mattresses, blankets and food parcels.

“It was clear that the children were sleeping on the floor and huddling up together to keep warm,” he said.

The councillor found out that the children did not have birth certificates and therefore could not access social grants. This was when the Municipality’s ABM team stepped in to assist. The family was provided with food parcels while the children were registered at Home Affairs and applications were made for financial aid. To date 13 of the children are collecting grants.

The municipality’s Thobekile Mngadi said it got to a stage when staff at the Social Welfare department became suspicious that so many applications were coming from one household, until the family’s circumstances were explained.

Social workers were also brought in to assist and helped the children of school-going age to enrol at the local schools. Mbambo knows her brood well; she tells you which grandchild belongs to which of her late children. As she directs the children to carry the parcels indoors, she tells them, “God has come to us this Christmas!”


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