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It is the uncaring and cruel disposition by so many in positions of power and influence that is destroying our nation one cash-filled Louis Vuitton handbag at a time, writes Melanie Verwoerd.
Last week I came
across two stories – one representing the worst of what South Africa has become
and one representing the best. Both involved children.
The first story was
about a little 8-year-old girl in Gauteng. Last year she was raped by a man in
an open field. Her little body was so badly damaged that she needed multiple
operations, including a colostomy bag. (As I write this I want to weep at the
horror of it all.)
It goes without saying
that she needed multiple follow-up medical visits. The little girl was also severely
traumatised. Too scared to go outside she had for months totally withdrawn from
society. Her mother has been taking care of her and with her gentle love the little
girl is finally starting to heal both physically and psychologically. According
to her mum she is at last starting to play a bit again.
However, on a recent
visit to the state hospital, she was told by nurses that they won't treat the little
girl until her mum has paid just over R1 000 which they claim she owes for her
daughter's treatment. In an interview with eNCA the mum said that every time
she went to the hospital the nurses told her that they were doing her a favour
to change the colostomy bag for free, since at Dischem or Clicks it would cost
The mother said that
she pleaded with them not to stop the treatment, explaining that she couldn't
work because she had to take care of the little girl. She also mentioned that
she was totally reliant on social grants. The nurses then told her that she had
to bring in her and her daughter's Sassa cards so that the finance department
at the hospital could deduct the money she "owed" from the social
grant she receives.
As far as I know this
is illegal. Firstly, she should not need to pay anything at a state hospital if
she is not in a position to do so and secondly, they cannot "force"
her to accept deductions from her social grant.
Legality aside, what
really struck me was the cruelty of those nurses and the medical administrators.
What has happened to us in this country that female nurses insist that they are
doing an 8-year-old rape survivor a favour to change her colostomy bag? What
has made people so cruel that they will look a mother in the eye and accuse her
of having done something wrong when she conscientiously brought her injured and
traumatised girl for medical care?
Of course it is not
only in that hospital or even in the medical arena that we are seeing this uncaringness.
There are thousands of queues snaking through our country on a daily basis at
government institutions. At police stations, home affairs offices, embassies, Sassa
payment centres, municipalities and asylum centres people wait for hours,
desperate to be helped, only to be turned away
If you have ever stood
in any of those queues, you would have seen the despondency in the eyes of
those who have no resources to solve their problem except by appealing to
uncaring and rude officials.
The worst thing for me
about the state capture inquiry has not been the scale of the corruption – as
shocking as that is. It is the fact that so many in positions of influence took
bribes to ensure that state resources would benefit a rich family from India
and white men from the Eastern Cape.
They did not care one
iota about the vulnerable people these state resources were supposed to
benefit. All they cared about was enriching themselves, whilst they helped
these already rich and privileged men to become obscenely wealthy. It is this
uncaring and cruel disposition by so many in positions of power and influence
that is destroying our nation one cash-filled Louis Vuitton handbag at a time.
Yet, all is not lost.
Amongst ordinary South Africans there are still so much goodness that it often
makes me gasp in astonishment.
One such story is of
Brett Nash. He is a severely disabled young man. Every evening for the last
five years he has visited his local Spar in Roodepoort with a family member to
The reason they go every
day is because the amazing staff at the Spar make Brett feel special every time
he is there. His mum says that, initially, the staff let him ride around on the
machine used to polish the floor, but then he got too big. Now, whoever is
there makes it a very special occasion for him – often by singing for him.
Recently, on his 15th
birthday, the staff did more than just sing. They pooled their (undoubtedly
very small) wages to buy him a big birthday cake and then they sang for ages
while he danced around ecstatically. (Have a look at the video. It will make your day!)
This moving story is
one of so many I hear almost daily of ordinary South Africans across racial and
class lines coming together and caring for one another.
Of course politicians
will always try and blow up racial tension as much as they can – especially in
an election year – to hide their own failures.
What they should be doing
is having a really hard look at how the various organs of the state are
treating ordinary people. I truly believe that most South Africans are caring
people who want to see a country where people of all races can flourish and
live in harmony.
If only the
politicians and officials can stop messing it up and start caring a little bit
about the people they are meant to serve – like the 8-year-old girl and her mother
- Melanie Verwoerd is a former ANC MP and South African Ambassador to Ireland.Disclaimer: News24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24.
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