Tomase still has longer to wait for her ID document that will give her and her children access to a social grant or the covid-19 emergency relief grant as a cushion against their grinding poverty.
As lack of access to food and hunger continue to affect the poor under lockdown in South Africa, some families do not even get food parcels or government grants to cushion them.
Sikelelwa Tomase, a 28-year-old mother of two from BM Section in Khayelitsha has been unemployed her whole life and has not been getting food parcels during lockdown and is not receiving a child support grant. Tomase is born to South African parents but she does not have a birth certificate or an identity document and as a result, cannot apply for the relief of distress social grant from SASSA.
According to hospital documents, Tomase was born at Mowbray maternity hospital on the 17th of February 1992. “I don’t think much about my birthday; it’s just like any other day for me,” said Tomase flanked by her two daughters.
“My father was never part of my life and he died in 2012. I was raised by my grandparents in Qhashu village in Lady Frere and that is where I attended school. I only realised that I was different from other children when I passed Grade 9 and had to go to high school but I didn’t have an ID or a birth certificate,” Tomase said.
Tomase said she was told by her mother that she was “abducted” and not knowing any better, she did not register her birth.
According to the Department of Home Affairs, at the end of 2015 they stopped late registration of birth at its offices and instead introduced committees that would oversee and investigate each case. Any birth that is registered after 30 days of giving birth is considered late registration and the older the person is the more difficult it is to register their birth.
“In 2016, we introduced stringent measures to ensure that each case and documents submitted, are verified. We can confirm that Sikelelwa Tomase submitted her school report and because it is from another province it takes time. We asked her to also get a clinic card or a letter from the hospital she was born in. The school closure due to the coronavirus and the lockdown has contributed to the delay,” said Bongani Ndimande from the Khayelitsha Home Affairs office.
Tomase showed Elitsha a copy of her school report dated 31 May 2018, so it would seem Ndimande was reaching for an excuse for the inexcusable.
“I have not been receiving food parcels and when I inquired I was told by committee members who know my situation that it is going to be difficult to give me a food parcel if I don’t have an ID,” said Tomase. Allegations of widespread corruption around food parcels in Khayelitsha and in other parts of the country make Tomase’s predicament so much more outrageous.
Ward 89 councillor Monde Nqulwana is aware of Tomase’s situation as she has contacted him. Nqulwana said that there are two other families in his ward who have problems with late registration of birth. “We decided that when she came to the office that there would be a follow-up meeting but she never made contact again,” said Nqulwana.
“I have also been staying away from food parcels but when I’m approached by individual donors I always ask the ward committee who know the people well to provide me with child-headed households or people who do not benefit from government grants. They are the ones who were supposed to give me her name since they know she does not qualify for food parcels,” he said.
Tomase told Elitsha that her relationship with her mother who is now married with children is not good at all. “Even my relationship with my siblings is not good as things get tense when I confront my mother for not caring about me,” she said. She lives by handouts and she and her two daughters, Siyolise (7) and Liyabona (5), have been getting meals from the BM Soup Kitchen.
The soup kitchen, run by the Barney Molokoana Community Development Project, feeds about 150 people a day but they are struggling as the structure where they are based is not in a good condition. “When it rains it gets flooded here because the roof and zinc sheets are broken. We have been approached by a donor in Epping and they want to give us food parcels and food to cook but we do not have safe space to keep it,” said Masa Nkawule, the organisation’s spokesperson.
Nkawule said they also run community projects like knitting, an after-school programme, women’s programmes and a food garden. The project is aimed at alleviating poverty and providing a space for community members to learn some skills that they can use to put food on the table for their families,” he said.
Any donations to BM Community Development Project are welcome, particularly food parcels, furniture, sanitary pads, fencing material for the food garden and books for their after-school programme.