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Stories written on their faces

Timelines in their wrinkles

Timelines on their parentless graces.

Spawns of unemployed guardians.

This moment is their ability to live through disabilities.

Their rumbling tummies are in tune with their heartbeats.

Forced to dance to the music that suffering plays

They have long accepted hardship's face

But they can barely stand.

Their feet are a burden to carry.

Joints now creaking from arthritis.

This is grandma’s last R15. She will use it to catch a taxi to the post office.

The mission is to retrieve what is their due

At the head of this very long queue

But what does the post office do?

This is supposed to be the moment of reckoning for their years of hard work, hard knocks and hard truths.

Their moment to spring life into the empty eyes of their children.

To service that nebuliser, attached to the wheelchair, that broke last week.

To fill their pockets only to empty them again as a sacrifice to their cupboards.

There is no difference between the pitch blackness of midnight and 5am on a cold winter’s day with impaired vision.

They can barely see the way at 5am when they embark to collect their fruits.

The overripe spoils are sickening. They are flies around a mango.

Sassa said glitch was a result of a backlog in processing the beneficiaries on their new system.

I say they were ill-prepared.

Attempting to revive the archaic post office to thrive in a digital era, is synonymous with sending a squad of knights into battle without any armour.

Anyone who has been to a post office recently was to have documents certified or to pay their car licence disc.

This is not because the post office is so amazing. There just aren’t queues there.

They were never ready for the wave of 700000 beneficiaries who braved the cold for service.

They in turn got cold comfort, turned away at paypoints.

Maybe our grandmothers would not have wasted their time and used that last R15 to buy bread that day.

Maybe they would have stayed home till they were told their new cards are now working and funds are available.

These new cards also require a PIN now.

Their arthritis fingers have one more obstacle.

They need to interact with screens at paypoints.

Their impaired vision has a new strain.

Lack of funds, no matter how often it may happen, it will always bring a new pain.

A pain of lacking the ability to create new memories.

A pain of a single parent not being able to buy nappies for her baby.

A dying pain of an asthmatic toddler under the care of grandparents.

Her lungs have taken a toll on her fragile frame.

She and her caregivers are part of the about 17million South African beneficiaries of state grants.

A few days glitch on your side is a lifetime for the destitute on ours.

An apology issued by South African Social Security Agency acting CEO Abraham Mahlangu on Monday cited system failure.

An apology won’t give grandma another R15 to take a taxi back home.

She didn’t stay home and buy bread with her last.

She didn’t know you would fail to pay what is due to her.

Can you read the stories written on their faces?

* This poem was co-written by Magnum Opus. An ensemble of award-winning poets including Thobani Mntambo, Sibusiso Ndebele and Rabbie Wrote.


The Saturday Star