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Family of little beggars finally gets help

MPUMALANGA – Help is, at last, being given to a 12-year-old boy and his four younger siblings who had to beg for food to keep themselves and their mother alive.

After months of dangerous living, the family is now receiving help and guidance, after the Mpumalanga Department of Social Development has stepped in to ensure that the children are properly taken care of and educated.

Months ago Health-e News reported on the plight of the boy, who lives in Nyibe near Ermelo. He had been roaming the streets, begging for money and food, doing his utmost to support his mother and four siblings. Since that time, his younger brothers also started begging.

The authorities have now stepped in and started by trying to help the mother get an ID book. Work was done to look for alternative accommodation for the family, as well as a regular supply of food for them because the children were in danger while out begging on the streets.

The local community was also angry, accusing the mother of maltreating her children by sending them out to beg.

Community member Lindiwe Zungu was angry with the mother and felt she was abusing her children.

“How can she says she doesn’t have work because she doesn’t have an ID number and uses that as an excuse to send her children out to find work without birth certificates? To be a street vendor doesn’t require one to have ID book. She must just grow up and be like other mothers and work for her kids, not the other way around.”

Stepped in

Ronnie Masilela, spokesperson for the Mpumalanga Department of Social Development, sad a multi-disciplinary team was sent out to visit the family in July. During that time civil society organisations also stepped in and pledged to help the family.

A task team was set up with the aim of securing a meeting with the local Executive Mayor Solomon Nkosi, to discuss the possibilities of allocating an RDP house for the family. The mayor promised to deploy officials from the Department of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA) as well as a ward councilor to further assess the family’s problem issues.

From August arrangements were made for food parcels to be provided for the family by the Department of Social Services, and it was noted that the children were no longer attending school at all.

The entire family was then taken to the Department of Home Affairs to start the process of getting them documents. The children were put down for late birth registrations after the department verified that they had been born in South Africa and they were citizens.

The mother was asked to appear before an interview panel in September, and also asked to provide an old school report or proof that she had grown up and attended school in South Africa. She was also asked to bring along another relative to confirm that she is the children’s birth mother.

The mother’s sister lives in the nearby Amsterdam area, so arrangements were made for her to visit Home Affairs to confirm the identities of her relatives. Requests were also made to a local school to process admission for the five boys.

Assistance programme

Plans were made to continue with a family assistance programme going forward. This includes fetching the aunt from Amsterdam to confirm the children’s family so that they can qualify for late registration of birth. Counselling would also be arranged for the children and arrangements would be made with school principal Samson Nkosi for the children to be admitted to the Izimbali Combined Boarding School in Amsterdam as soon as possible.

A backup arrangement was also made, should Izimbali be unable to manage the children and plans were made to have the two oldest children put into substance abuse prevention programmes.

Masilela said social workers from Ermelo had been unable to complete the application process for the mother’s identity documents because she did not have money for the required photographs, and so the process had been delayed.

The children’s aunt said the boys had been removed from their mother’s care and had been placed in a temporary home until they could be admitted to boarding school. However, only four boys were now at the home because the oldest child had run away. The four were to receive support and counselling while waiting to be put into school.

Masilela said the Mpumalanga Department of Social Development will have to follow the Child Protection Act in their efforts to help the 12-year-old who was now a runaway.

“Despite all the challenges my family has experienced over the years, things are starting to look good because the Department of Social Development is continuing to deliver as promised,” said the children’s mother.

An edited version of this story was published in The Star country edition print.

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