KWAZULU-NATAL, South Africa – He should be enjoying life and special care in his old age, but that is not the case with Albert Plaatjie, an elderly citizen and pensioner from Blaauwbosch village in Newcastle.
Plaatjie is an old, frail man (probably in his 90s) who is even struggling to cook his meal, let alone washing his clothes, blankets and do the cleaning in his two-roomed house. Apart from that, his identity document and SASSA card to get his pension grant is not in his possession. It is in a possession of a 29-year-old woman who earns his pension grant on his behalf, while also earning a child support grant for her two children.
According to Plaatjie, the young woman, Lindiwe Nyawoza, is a daughter of his former girlfriend, Sbongile Nyawoza. He claims that the young woman does not even cook or wash his clothes and do the cleaning for him, despite collecting his pension grant every month.
OgeneAfrican correspondence who paid him a visit, witnessed Plaatjie’s living conditions first hand, where he does not have enough and nutritious food in his cupboard, with only mealie meal and salt available. And an unpleasant odour inside the house is evident to the old man’s struggle to wash his clothes and even his body.
He says Nyawoza does not buy him enough food and electricity to last him until his next date of his pension grant, and as a result he resorts to using imbawula – a makeshift coals stove made out of a large tin with holes in the side, designed to burn for a long time – for cooking and keeping himself warm in cold weather conditions.
‘’This girl (Nyawoza) deprives me freedom to use my old age pension grant for personal needs, and this is really frustrating me. I can’t buy myself what I like with my money, I can’t eat what I like. When I was still in a relationship with her mother, Sbongile, whom I broke up with a few years ago, this girl took my ID and SASSA card on the pretext that she was going to apply for a funeral cover on my behalf and her mother. Since then she has never returned my documents, and I’m still yet to see documents of that funeral cover.
‘’The only thing she does is to come and accompany me to a pension pay point on my payday. Because I’m illiterate, I didn’t know that my PIN number should not be known by anyone, but I gave it to her and she is the one who earns money on my behalf, and sometimes she goes alone when I’m not feeling well. But she does not buy me enough food and electricity. When she has bought that little food and soap, she then gives me only R100 which is never enough for my needs.
All I want is my documents to be returned to me, but she can’t give them back and even her mother doesn’t want her daughter to return my documents. So, I don’t know what to do now,’’ Plaatjie laments.
Plaatjie, who is not sure about his age as he says he didn’t go to school, told OgeneAfrican that he is originally from eNgcobo, in the Eastern Cape, and he had come to work in the mines of Dannhauser, near Newcastle, many years ago. He ended up being a Newcastle resident, and has since never returned to his birthplace.
‘’It has been many years now since I left eNgcobo, and I’m not sure if my relatives are still alive or not. I didn’t have a problem with my living conditions here in Blaauwbosch as I have lived here for years. My only concern now is this girl who took away my important documents. What if I die, as my ID is not with me. She and her mother do nothing for me. They don’t cook or wash for me, but the only thing they are after for is my pension grant.’’
OgeneAfrican’s attempt to get a comment from Nyawoza on why she has kept Plaatjie’s documents proved fruitless as she declined to comment.
KwaZulu-Natal Department of Social Development spokesperson, Mhlabunzima Memela said: ‘’The Department of Social Development is shocked to learn of the living conditions of Mr Albert Plaatjie. Minister Mrs Nonhlanhla Khoza has dispatched a team of social workers to visit Mr Plaatjie to assess his living conditions to ascertain what led to situation and provide necessary psychological services. To learn that he is living in squalor conditions while his SASSA card taken away is more worrisome. It is unacceptable and criminal for anyone to take away the SASSA card from the rightful owner without authorisation. The Department will work with SASSA in opening a criminal case against the person who continues to collect Plaatjie’s pension.’’
Sibusiso Mdlalose, a Newcastle-based OgeneAfrican freelance journalist. Contact number 063 949 1865