When will it be our turn to eat? - Uitenhage mothers

2016-07-19 09:19
Unathi Joubert, Theo Thista and Anitha Captain keep having babies so they could have food through the Sassa grant. They have 10 children (and one of the way), between them (Thulani Gqirana, News24)

Port Elizabeth – Three women in Xaba township, Uitenhage, in Nelson Mandela Bay say they had multiple children in the hopes of getting enough money through the government's child support grant to live comfortably.

Their plan has failed miserably, they say.

- Elections Map: Previous Uitenhage results

Unathi Joubert, 34, Theo Thista, 30, and Anita Captain, 28, who among themselves have ten children - with one on the way - still go to bed hungry.

And they don't see their lives improving anytime soon, even as political party after party comes knocking on their doors, hoping to secure their votes.

Disillusioned with political promises after being out of work for more than eight years each, the women believe they are going to die in poverty if something does not change soon.

The women speak to News24 as they sit under a tree with three of their boys playing racing games with a toy truck, an empty jug and a wooden plank. A baby suckles on Captain's breast.

This is how most of their days are spent, when the sun is out anyway: sitting on tree stumps next to an illegal rubbish dump.

Only way out

Joubert says they have no choice but to keep having babies to survive.

"You go for jobs and there are none. It's wrong I know and I won't have any more children, I am done now. I just drink now," the mother of four says.

Thista agrees that the only way to eat in their situation is to have a baby.

The only way to get "free money" is through the grant, Joubert says, or by doing someone's laundry and only getting R50.

A pregnant Captain says even though she currently gets R990 in child grants for her three children, it is never enough.

The parents say recently the money they receive is always short, and they are too worn out to head to the Sassa offices to complain.

Competition for the ANC

"You have to be willing to spend your whole day at the Sassa offices, and even then you might not get the answers you need," Captain says.

The three women will be voting, they say, as they believe not voting will make it easier for the ANC to retain power in the city.

Life might improve if the party had more competition, Captain believes.

"It can't get any worse," she says.

They have lived in the area "forever" they say, and the only time they ever see politicians is during the buildup to the elections.

They hear the same promises: the eradication of crime, dealing with drug abuse and job creation.

Police 'scared' of criminals

But crime was still rife in the area with criminals targeting children on their way to the shops or workers on their way home.

"The police are even scared of the criminals here, they 'moer' them straight," Joubert said.

Thista says she has lost so much trust in the police that she has stopped reporting physical abuse suffered at the hands of the father of her children.

"The police tell us to talk it out. The only time they take note is if you come in there bleeding onto their precious floor. Otherwise they don't do anything," she said.

And getting jobs was an elusive dream.

The government "piece" jobs always go to the same people, they say.

"There is a woman over there whose children always seem to get the jobs because she had the connections. And they are supposed to go to new people every few months. What about us? When will it be our turn to eat?" Thista says.

Never enough

All they want now, the women say, is enough money to get their children into proper preschools, but even that is unattainable.

"We had to have children to eat, and now we can't afford to take the children to school because there is just never enough money," they say.

Poverty will not stand in the way of them voting though.

"They always say you can't complain if you don't vote, so I will vote, and complain," says Joubert.

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