I come as one, I stand as 17 million

2017-03-19 06:07
Nonkosi Slatsha

Nonkosi Slatsha

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Nonkosi Slatsha

The City Press article “They may as well kill us” (March 5 2017), which was about the plight of the people of Nqwashu village, Eastern Cape, caught my eye.

One sentence read: “Matshintsholo Luvela (71) says she is the sole breadwinner, supporting a family of five on a R1 500 pension.”

Déjà vu!

This is my story during the apartheid era.

My grandmother supported a family of 11, four adults and seven children. Why am I reading this now? Are we regressing as a country, or did we simply stop caring?

I can’t believe that, 23 years into our hard-earned democracy, we still have this scenario in South Africa.

Social grants plant the first seed of education for many poor families. They are used to pay school fees (in my case) and buy school uniforms.

My grandmother’s pension supported me for 16 years.

When I passed my matric and there was no money for tertiary education, my grandmother gave me money to look for a job.

The day she gave me her last penny she said, “This is my last money, my child; I don’t know what will happen if you don’t get a job today.”

Guess what? I got my job that day!

Four weeks later she succumbed to cancer of the oesophagus. She never received another pension. She never held money in her hands again.

However, the last penny of her pension started my career.

Most of the people who hold cushy positions today grew up during the apartheid era, which means they have a story similar to mine.

They know what it’s like to be without, to be in need, and to have nothing. The problem we have today is selective memory. The haves have forgotten what it’s like to be a have-not.

Here is a shame about this saga: While the social grants during the apartheid government were a pittance that came once in two months, they were paid religiously the entire 16 years of my life.

Was this because of how much the white regime cared about the poor black people? I doubt it. It was because of how efficient their systems were.

Now that we are in power, not only are our systems inefficient, but we often fail the masses who are still living in poverty.

To the 17 million recipients, the social grants saga is not a political agenda but a survival agenda.

The people of Nqwashu said something I know all too well: “Our children are unemployed. They are sitting at home and are supported by us through this grant.”

One might be wondering where my father was when my grandmother was struggling to make ends meet.

Well, he was the 11th mouth that my grandmother was feeding. He woke up every day at dawn and walked 15km to look for a job, until the soles of his shoes wore away.

The Nqwashu people further lamented: “If we don’t have social grants, it will be the end for us.” I say, no, it won’t be.

It will take more than unpaid social grants to bring about your end. You will still be here on April 2 and stronger than when you went to sleep on the 1st, with or without social grants.

God made us strong to survive. He created us with internal resilience. That is how we survived the oppression under the apartheid regime.

Whether the SA Social Security Agency pays the social grants on April 1 or not, you will be alright.

The white people oppressed us for years but we have now been liberated for 23 years. Few people have become very wealthy since the dawn of democracy.

The question we should be asking is: What are we doing to lift others as we rise? What are we doing to ease the yoke of poverty on those who are still where they were 23 years ago?

If there are black families in this day and age who are still dependent on social grants for survival, when there are few who have more than enough, then what colour of oppressors are we?

Slatsha is a director of Gentle Whisper Ministries in Port Elizabeth

Read more on:    social grants

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