Pretoria- “Can the government do something to fix this situation? We can’t handle it anymore, our lives have been turned upside down,” so says a 63-year-old pensioner who is struggling to keep up with the rampant increased living costs in the country.
* Nomsa Khambule from Soshanguve, a township about 30 kilometres outside of Pretoria, lives with her husband, *Mdala.
They share their home with their two unemployed nieces, who are 23 and 33 respectively, and have five children between them.
Khambule, a retired domestic worker, who now relies on a R1 980 government pension, said with inflation, the situation at home has worsened, with tensions arising.
The financial pressure the elderly couple faces has the granddad contemplating kicking out the two nieces and their five children.
“From the pension money that I get (R1 980), I have to buy groceries, pay R350 for my burial society, pay rent and also buy electricity for R400.
“Before, I would spend R1 000 or R1 200 on groceries and it would be decent items, but now? I can’t even get meat, it’s a luxury. I don’t even want to talk about snacks, I love yoghurt, I would buy myself one tub on pay day, now I can’t even afford that.
“I haven’t paid rent in three months, I’m even scared to check how much I owe, trying to meet all my obligations with my pension money is impossible, so I’ve decided to ignore some of the things,’’ says the grandmother Nomsa.
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NAME: Nomsa Khambule
Income: R1 980
Groceries: R1 200
Bond/Rent: Paid up
Rates, Taxes, Levies: R700-R900
Insurance: R300 (Mdala pays the insurance)
Medical Aid: No Medical Aid
Eating out: None
Child care: None
School fees: None
While speaking, Khambule asks for a minute to take her snuff. She pours a little in her hand and she sections it so that it can go through her nostrils with ease.
After wiping her nose with a tissue, she continues to talk about the burdens she faces in the current economy.
“I live with my two nieces, one has three children and another has two, they are unemployed and get grant money, but what is R400 going to do when everything is so expensive, tell me, what are you going to do with R400?” she asks with her eyes wide open and hands raised in the air.
When asked why she is staying with her nieces, Khambule explains that they are her sister’s children and she “adopted” them after realising that their mother didn’t give them proper care.
“My sister prioritised alcohol and she would always neglect these girls, so I spoke to my husband and we adopted them and we raised them like our own plus we didn’t have girls, we only had two boys. The boys are married now and they have moved out,” she said.
Khambule said tensions were at boiling point in the household as Mdala wants the nieces to move out with their kids. He believes they have become a financial burden on the pensioners.
“Mdala refuses to help in buying groceries, he says the girls are now a burden and should move out.
“Can you believe that if he buys something and these grandkids eat it, we won’t sleep? He will complain until morning, he can complain over jam or peanut butter. I’m sure if it was polony he would have killed us,” Khambule said while shaking her head.
Nomsa said they now use a plastic wash basin to bath because Mdala says using the bathtub wastes water.
She admits that the strategy is working, but she still feels Mdala should be assisting more in the house.
“He used to buy electricity and meat. Can you believe he now buys one braai pack and expects it to last the whole month? We are lucky if we get wors, but still, we have to make sure the meat does not finish quickly.”
Nomsa’s tone gets very soft and sad when she speaks about her nieces, who are 33 and 23. The 33-year-old has three kids and the 23-year-old has two kids.
“The older one used to have a job at a flower shop, she was not staying here, she left the kids and the Sassa cards but she would always send money, she is not stingy when she has money, but unfortunately she lost her job around 2019. I know if she gets a job, things will be better.
“Besides, they are like my children, If I tell them to leave, where will they go? I’m the only family member they have, their mother is still alive but useless.”
Mdala is also a pensioner, he retired from his job as a driver two years ago.
With his pension money, the 64-year-old Mdala bought a taxi which he uses to transport people who work at retail stores around Pretoria Noord.
It’s lunch time and Mdala is back to fix his taxi, he bought it second-hand and it sometimes gives him issues.
Mdala is reluctant to speak to IOL at first, he says he is scared that it will be construed in a negative light, however, his wife encourages him to speak.
“Speak, maybe we will get help and the government will create jobs for our kids,” says Nomsa to her husband.
Mdala lights a cigarette before he agrees to speak.
“Things are expensive and I’m not happy with how these girls have conducted their lives, they have kids without planning and I have to take a fall for it.
“I raised them very well and even saved up money for the older one to go to tertiary but she refused. The younger one fell pregnant in high school, she ruined her life very early and I didn’t bother with her.
“How can you have kids and you don't have a decent salary and you are not married? In fact, where are the fathers of these children, why don’t they marry these girls and take their kids? They are even using my surname. Is it fair, I’m asking, is it fair? See, when I speak, they say I’m wrong.”
Mdala said he plans to find the nieces a shack at an informal settlement and they will decide what to do with their lives.
“I’ve done my part, I raised them as a father and did everything for them, they must go and raise their children with their fathers. They can’t burden me, I'm too old now,” he said while getting up to fix his taxi.
In May, the City of Tshwane Municipality proposed an increase for water, electricity and property rates tariffs among others.
Proposed tariff increases:
A 6% increase for property rates.
A 6% increase for refuse removal
A 7.47% tariff increase for electricity effective 1 July, 2022 for domestic, commercial and industrial customers.
Water tariffs will increase by 9%..
Sanitation charges will also increase by 9%.
The Khambule family is just one of thousands of South African families who are under pressure financially and have spoken to IOL as part of the series.
** Not their real names.