Plagued by poverty
DESPERATE: Kealogetswe ponders the harsh realities of life

Impoverished pensioner pleads for help

Life has not been easy for 86-year-old Balemogeng Kealogetswe.

Frail, frightened and bent double with the crippling effects of age, to compound the grandmother’s problems, her eyesight is rapidly failing.

Kealogetswe lives in Mokhomma village, a small settlement located some 40km from Jwaneng. Her one-roomed home is a tiny, worn out corrugated iron shack with a flimsy door that only closes with the aid of a wire.

The roof leaks and the thin walls offer little resistance against the penetrating wind.

The small ‘house’ is barely big enough for one person, yet Kealogetswe shares it with her blind 31-year-old daughter, Malebogo Khumosera and two grandchildren.

Kealogetswe’s existence is poverty in its cruellest form – sadly, it is the story of her life.

When The Voice first enter the old lady’s plot, it has the eerie, haunted feel of a habitat long abandoned.

Mud bricks scatter the yard – the sorry remains of what were once traditional huts.

After a few nervous minutes of waiting, Kealogetswe eventually emerges from her shack, walking with a slow, delicate limp.

Despite her pitiful surroundings, the old woman is cheerful, greeting us with a warm, welcoming smile.

Speaking with a dry, husky voice moulded by the ravages of time, she explains that she inherited the plot from her late parents years ago.

Her smile soon fades as she begins to recount her life’s difficult narrative.

Gaunt and looking dangerously malnourished, Kealogetswe reveals that although she has never worked before in her life, she is the caretaker of her small family – a role she assumed when her daughter went blind a few years back (she is unsure of the exact date).

“It is not that I manage to do all the chores. I am also coughing and my body aches all the time,” grieved the grey-haired grandmother, subsequently breaking out into a coughing fit.

The festive holidays will not bring any relief to Kealogetswe and her family, as she notes grimly, “I do not even have plans for Christmas day as we have no source of food. I use dried grass to cook because I am not able to collect fire-wood from the bush.”

Kealogetswe and her dependents owe their survival to government assistance. Whilst grateful, the old lady was quick to point out that this aid is barely sufficient, revealing the family often go hungry.

“Village social workers supply us with one bag of maize meal, sorghum and a cabbage monthly,” she said, adding that meat is a luxury they can only dream of.

As we leave Kealogetswe’s compound, dazed at the reality that such poverty still exists in Botswana, we are approached by concerned neighbour, Tsholofelo Ramakane, 27, who stresses the family’s desperate need for help.

“They do not have a house; the boyfriend to the blind daughter is also sick. The situation always pains me most during rainy seasons,” she said, before appealing to the public to assist the family where possible – after all, Christmas is meant to be a time of giving!

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