When Finance Minister Tito Mboweni announced his budget earlier this year, there was a brouhaha surrounding the increase in the price of alcohol, tobacco, fuel and sorghum beer.
During his speech, one of the highlights was the abolishment of VAT on sanitary pads. That announcement was lauded by pundits as a victory for poor girls and young women in mostly rural areas who miss school every month due to the lack of access to pads.
However, one announcement that stood out for me was the one related to the measly R80 increase in old-age grants. Although many believe this R1 780 monthly amount is sufficient for our elders, I consider it a drop in the ocean when taking into account how our grandparents have to share the money.
In rural areas and many other households across the country, grandparents share their social grants with their grandchildren, often because the child’s parents died or left for greener pastures.
I vividly remember how my paternal granny carried a heavy weight on her shoulders after my father died. We were a big family housed with my nine cousins, who all depended on her meagre earnings.
With that money, my granny would make sure that it was responsibly spent on essential needs in the family and also catered for our school requirements. As little as it was, it truly made a huge difference.
We were so young and would sometimes make unnecessary demands – oblivious of how we were suppressing her right to enjoy her pension without sharing it with us.
It wasn’t only her money she shared with us – as her grandkids, we also drew from her well of wisdom, which no institution of learning can offer. Her informal education was so extraordinary, and her insights prepared us for the pitfalls and challenges that life held in store for us.
Her death really proved the saying that, “when an older person dies, it is like the whole library has gone up in flames”.
I attribute most of my good upbringing to her. May her soul repose peacefully.
Today, Julius Malema, the leader of the EFF, is in mourning. Koko Sarah Malema was one of those grannies who took on the responsibility of raising her grandkids after they lost their parents.
I remember that, during his time as the leader of the ANC Youth League, Malema called on the then minister of higher education Naledi Pandor to “use her fake accent to address the plight of students at varsities”.
In African culture, this was perceived as impudence, and Koko Sarah chastised her grandson and told him to apologise to Pandor. Malema then extended an olive branch to Pandor.
This is just another example of how critical our grannies’ roles are in our lives.
I also remember how University of KwaZulu-Natal graduate Njabulo Ntombela honoured his family’s matriarch during his graduation ceremony.
When his name was called for him to go on to the stage and receive his graduation certificate, he walked up with his great-grandmother. He then took off his gown so that she could wear it and grabbed her hand so they could graduate together.
According to Ntombela, the day belonged to his gogo. His mum, dad and grandmother died when he was young, and he described his great-grandmother as a strong woman who stepped in to look after him and his siblings.
Today is Mother’s Day and, while the day is meant to celebrate motherhood and the influence of mothers in society, I am of the opinion that our grannies also deserve to be showered with flowers and pampered with love.
These mothers of our mothers are the ones who make sure that, as flickers of life, we become flames that eventually burn bright. We are who we are because of them.
Today, I celebrate them as the most productive trees in our lives’ garden. These are the paragons of women who hold a knife at its sharpest edge.
Mogotlane is a civil servant
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