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BY JOYCE LEE, KYLE VAN HEERDEN and JABULANE KHUMALO
Johannesburg - A burnt teddy bear lay against the walls of a Diepkloof, Soweto, home. The sun illuminated the burnt baby-blue walls of the roofless rooms.
In the front yard were piles of rubble – remains of the house after a fire that raged for seven hours ravaged the home on Christmas night last year.
No one died that night – only the grandmother of the family of 10 was home.
The fire started just after 10pm, and Florence Malindi, 82, woken up by the smoke, crawled through the house to look for its source. Firefighters arrived four hours later but, by then, most of the house had already been burnt.
They lost all their valuables. “The uniforms and the shoes were burnt,” she said.
The home should be empty, but the Malindi family still live there, unable to afford fixing it or moving to a different location.
“We’ve lived in this home for 30 years. We’re struggling now, and we’re just hungry. Even when the kids come home from school, I don’t know what to feed them,” said Malindi’s granddaughter Fikile Malindi, 30.
“Our uncle lost his ID, and he applied for a temporary one.”
And so while Diepkloof hostel protesters displayed their bums for police in a service delivery protest on Chris Hani Road on Wednesday morning, the Malindi family stayed in a small room, fully clothed but stooped over a small electric stove for warmth.
They live in one room with two mattresses, an impossibly large number of clothes and a portable stove. The room has a roof, but blankets and curtains were stuffed into the broken windows to block the winter wind as the mercury fell.
The entire family are unemployed, though Fikile and her cousins occasionally braid hair to bring in some income. They rely on their grandmother’s old-age pension and child support grants to get by.
Their current possessions were given to them by Adcock-Ingram in Aeroton.
“We’ve not received much help from our relatives,” Fikile said.
Nor did any assistance come from the local government, the family said.
“The councillor came and said they must write a letter on behalf of the grandmother regarding what was damaged,” said Valencia Malindi, 18.
The councillor never came back, she added.
“I have terrible arthritis. I have pain in my shoulders, legs, knees. It’s so bad. It’s very hard,” Florence Malindi said.
She burst into tears, clutching her face. “When will God help us?” she asked.
Frieda Dlamini, the director of Progress Community Charity Health Care, an organisation that helps elderly and disadvantaged people in the Diepkloof area, said: “I wish people could open their hearts and help this family out. I would like to urge the community to provide food for these people, because how can I eat while when some people can’t eat?”
The Star dropped off clothes and blankets, collected during the annual Operation Snowball, with the family on Wednesday afternoon.