Maimane confronted by poverty and pain in rural KZN
Nathi Olifant | 2017-05-17 16:37:12.0
DA leader Mmusi Maimane with Fungile Mbatha, 73, during by-election campaign in Nquthu.
Image by: THULI DLAMINI
Fungile Mbatha cuts a lonely figure as she sits inside her small home in Nquthu‚ in the rural north of KwaZulu-Natal. Her family has‚ for the most part‚ moved away and she’s largely left to fend for herself.
But the 73-year-old’s biggest concern‚ she told DA leader Mmusi Maimane as he met her during a door-to-door campaign on Wednesday‚ is the pain in her jaw.
“I’m dying of toothache‚” she said to a nodding Maimane‚ who appeared at a loss for words.
Mbatha lives with her daughter‚ Nokuthula‚ who is a DA activist.
“My children don’t live here; they are in Johannesburg. I only survive on a pension grant‚” she said‚ holding Maimane’s hand as tightly as her body lets her. “All I can say is God bless you.”
It was this picture of poverty and unemployment that stared Maimane in the face when he campaigned in Nquthu ahead of a crucial by-election next week. He visited several households on his door-to-door campaign.
Before meeting with Mbatha‚ Maimane went to the Mathabela household. As with so many of the families in the area‚ none of the Mathabela’s are employed. They survive on child and old age grants.
The Mathabela patriarch‚ Petru‚ said he lost his job several years ago.
“I was working at a quarry mine in Vryheid. I used to receive a pension‚ but it stopped and no one ever explained that to me. The money we get is not sufficient‚” said Mathabela‚ who lives with his four grown-up daughters.
Maimane tasked DA MPL Sizwe Mchunu with taking down Mathabela’s details.
“We will investigate what happened and parliament need to tell us what happens in these situations where people’s pensions suddenly stop‚” he said.
Maimane quipped that he wanted to pay lobola to one of Mathabela’s daughters. However‚ the eldest daughter‚ Nomkhosi‚ shot back and said Maimane should rather give her a job. He ended up gifting R100 to her baby.
“We want to fight corruption that prevents people from getting jobs even in this area. And we want to bring services to our people‚” said Maimane‚ who was also accompanied by DA provincial leader Zwakele Mncwango and MPL Imraan Keeka.
Nquthu is the only council in the country that failed to elect a mayor and other leaders after the August local government elections‚ as two alliances – one led by the IFP and the other by the ANC – deadlocked on several occasions.
Ultimately‚ the council was disbanded‚ meaning that every seat is now up for grabs in next week’s vote. Prior to the dissolution of the 33-seat council the DA held a single PR seat.
All political parties are going flat-out to win the seemingly innocuous municipality‚ with President Jacob Zuma also expected in Nquthu on Sunday.