Forgotten People

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HARD GRIND FOR A MEAL: A little girl operates a milling machine at Lomshiyo-2 in Mpumalanga. Communal farming is their source of food as most people are unemployed in this community. PICTURES: HERBERT MATIMBA

THE Forgotten People is how communities of Lomshiyo-2 and Shiya-Longuvo villages in Mpumalanga describe themselves.

“The last time I heard a radio was when I was in Swaziland 10 years ago,” Thembani Vilakazi said. While South Africa has seen major improvements in the lives and living conditions of people in rural areas, in Lomshiyo nothing has changed.

The village, which has about 200 households, does not have a single brick house, or even a shop or tap. To survive, the community ploughs its own food, mostly mealies, which are turned into mealie meal using a thresher.

Meat is usually hunted. The first issue is that even if the village had the potential to develop, it is almost impossible to access it as there is no road leading to it.

Health facilities, water and sanitation, electricity and something as small as a shop in the village are things the people of Lomshiyo have never experienced.

According to resident Mbelekeni Shongwe, 31, the last significant visitor the village had in a while was someone from the Department of Education whose suggestion was that the community take its children to boarding schools in the nearest town at the department’s cost.

Shongwe and his girlfriend Hlengiwe Mogale, 24, have four children, all of them born in risky conditions. As there is no hospital or clinic in Lomshiyo, pregnant women have to either leave the village days before they are due to give birth to a nearby area where they wait to go into labour, or walk three hours to the nearest health facility while already in labour.

“I was lucky enough to get transport to the hospital with my first two children. With the last two, we could not even afford to hire a car. In most cases the cars have to be hired two days before as our phones are either dead or have no signal.

With the last two I had to walk to the hospital when I felt the pain. Here you have to work with what you have. We have learned to master pain,” she said. The same goes when one of her children is sick. After giving birth she then had to bear the added stress of raising her children in their two-room mud house.

Although her children do not get sick more often, because of lack of proper food, she said they may be undernourished. The only jobs available to men in Lomshiyo is cutting trees at the nearest farm, which is seasonal. The other job is digging toilets for people in the community. “We need help, we need jobs, electricity and water,” he said.

Clay, rocks, wood and tree branches are used as building material for houses. While Lomshiyo is far behind, Shiya-Longuvo at least has one house that has electricity, although it is illegally connected from the nearest farm.

That is the community where Vilakazi and her five children survive by threshing corn in the corn field. This is one of the major means of feeding the family.

“My husband is still saving to buy the cables (to be used to connect electricity illegally), we can’t wait to have our own electricity too,” she said.

Their main source of water is a borehole which is now dry. Luckily there is a river behind their house. They are able to use the water for domestic use.

The Mpumalanga provincial government admitted to knowing about Lomshiyo but said it fell under the Nkomazi municipality. It could not be reached at the time of going to print.

KUTULLO MADISHA  kutullom@thenewage.co.za

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