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Homeless pianist pays R950 to sleep in shelter

Kwa-Zulu Natal
Durban – Deon Marais, 49, spends R950 of his R1 600 grant paying for a rickety bed in a shelter in the Durban CBD every month.

Originally from the Bloemfontein, the professional pianist used to make a good living, so good he could afford overseas holidays.

“My last trip was to the Philippines where I contracted yellow jaundice and when I came back I was diagnosed with liver, then kidney diseases. That trip literally cost me my life,” said Marais.

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Francois van der Merwe and Deon Marais on the corner of Sandile Thusi (Argyle) and Mathews Meyiwa (First Avenue) Road. Picture: Sibusiso Ndlovu/ANA Pictures

As his condition worsened, he could no longer work and lost his Glenwood flat.

When he is not in hospital for treatment, he is out on the street hanging out with friends.

And always in his pocket, is his ID book and social grant card.

“We are not allowed in the shelter during the day. I’m too sick to carry my belongings so I have to leave them at the shelter,” he said.

He has to endure the “filthy, drug infested” shelters to get a roof over his head.

“What bothers me more than the conditions is how nasty people are. You can be short R1 and they won’t let you in,” Marais said.

When he is well enough and can get the work, Marais still plays to earn money.

But his friend, Francois van der Merwe, 33, has no income since losing his job, his wife and “dignity” due to a drug addiction.

The Johannesburg mechanic spends his days begging to raise the R40 nightly shelter fee. He leaves some of his belongings at the shelter, as carrying them around makes him a target.

“I used to carry my things with me but I got robbed, they even took my ID.”

When he cannot raise shelter money, Van der Merwe sleeps on the streets.

“I look for a place protected from the wind, a safe place."

“One where metro (police) can’t find you,” he added.

The Mercury

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