’Father of Alexandra’ says festive season will be bleak in Joburg’s populous township
Johannesburg - The year has wreaked havoc among millions of people around the world, especially children and the elderly.
More fortunate people, although Covid-exhausted, are still planning their Christmas parties and year-end holidays.
However, for others, especially those living in poverty-striken Alexandra, this festive season is going to be especially bleak. They face going hungry as many of the soup kitchens that provide them with food daily will be closed for the festive season, or have already closed permanently because of a lack of funding.
Many Alexandra residents, several of whom once lived and worked in neighbouring suburbs as gardeners and domestics, are assisted every year with a food parcel to tide them over by community leader Linda Twala from the Phutaditjaba Centre, who distributes them at year-end parties.
“Besides being old, many of these pensioners are now supporting their entire families, not just their grandchildren anymore, because of job losses from the pandemic. Many rely solely on their state pensions,” he said.
Twala, also known as the “father” of Alexandra, has been a community leader for 53 years.
In 1967 he founded a centre for the aged where they could get medical care, food and companionship.
The centre grew from strength to strength, from a corrugated iron clinic to a proper satellite clinic. It now also has a library, a community boardroom and hall, a soup kitchen and, soon, a centre of excellence.
The centre feeds more than 200 children and 150 elderly people a day.
Twala says 90% of Alexandrians are unemployed.
“We are aiming at distributing as many food parcels to tide people over the festive season. It would be wonderful if people out there could adopt a granny or an orphan,” he said.
“I am blessed to have touched many lives in my many years of community service. It has been a journey that injects me with hope and energy to do more for my community. That is why I am inviting people to celebrate with us by helping these vulnerable people.”
Alexandra, said Twala, was largely ignored by the government although many of its leaders came from there. The renewal project, first promised in 2002, has never materialised.
“Alexandra was Nelson Mandela’s first home when he arrived from the Eastern Cape, and even it is lying neglected. Many other Struggle heroes who contributed greatly to the freedom of South Africans come from here, yet it remains one of the poorest,” he said.
Due to the coronavirus, this year the party will be split into three events – the first on December 9 for 500 elderly people, the second on December 11 for 500 children and the third, at his home in Second Avenue, for another 500 children.
Thereafter, Twala and his team of volunteers will be taking parcels to the bed-ridden.
Twala is the recipient of numerous awards, including the Inyathelo Awards for Lifetime Philanthropy, for this work.
Anyone who can assist with a donation of food, toiletries, gifts or money should contact Twala at 076 783 7121.