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A 12-year-old supports family of 8

“Right now what I need and want is not important,” said a 12-year-old boy who spends his days begging for money.

Prince Zitha, 12, supports his mother, alcoholic stepfather, and five siblings. (Credit: Flickr/ Clare Appleyard)

Prince Zitha* from Nyibe near Ermelo in Mpumalanga works hard to feed his family of eight.

He wakes up every morning and heads into town to beg for money or food. He also does what he can to collect cans and scrap metal which he takes to the scrap yard.

Prince supports his mother, alcoholic stepfather, and five siblings. The oldest sister is 17 years old and pregnant. Beside the stepfather none of the family members has South African document because of the reason no one amongst the children has ever received social grant.

“My mother and stepfather should be the ones who work hard to support us, not the other way around. My stepfather and I wake up every morning. But he does not look for work and in the evenings when I come with the R80 or less that I made the whole day, he comes home intoxicated. I am tired of supporting him. I understand that we are not his kids, but a true gentleman takes care of his family,” Prince said.

No identity documents

He said efforts made over the years to apply for identity documents for the children have been unsuccessful, and they had not received any help at the Ermelo Home Affairs office. He said a visit to Social Development had also not helped.

Prince’s aunt, Nokuthula Nkosi, said people had little sympathy for the family, and believed her sister should never have had six children.

According to the South African Human Rights Commission, children under 17 years old are eligible for child support grants. According to 2008 statistics, Prince and his five siblings are among some 2.1 million children eligible for social grants, but who are not receiving them because they don’t have the documents required to register for their payouts.

“All I want is to go to school like my friends, not to work like an adult,” said Prince.

People were not aware that Prince and his siblings were not going to school until they were found scavenging for food on the local rubbish dump.

Not going to school

Nomvula Simelane, Prince’s mother, said: Trust me. I have heard many times about my mistakes, and yes, my kids are suffering because of me. I am pleading to anyone to help me to get an ID so that I can work for my kids. Because I don’t have an ID people don’t trust me to work for them. They say I will steal. It pains me that none of my children has ever received a social grant because I don’t have birth certificates for them.”

Local community member Phindile Mzinyane said people were not aware that Prince and his siblings were not going to school until they were found scavenging for food on the local rubbish dump.

“No child deserves to live in such bad conditions,” Mzinyane said, explaining that concerned community members had taken up the children’s plight and had reported their situation to the Department of Social Development.

According to ward councilor for the area, Peter Moloi, the matter had been reported and the community was still waiting for feedback, despite having been told that the local municipality did not have resources to assist the family.

*Prince Zitha is not the child’s real name.

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