“I am losing the only children I have” – Thokoza hostel resident

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A photograph safely stashed in her wallet is as close as she gets to her children for most of the year. NOKWANDA MNCWANGO* (46) has been living without her two daughters and son since 2007, and says their mother-child relationship is dwindling. Mncwango opened up to Zimasa Matiwane about how her living conditions and how a no-children policy at Thokoza Hostel in Durban have denied her children a mother.

After I separated from my husband we decided that he must take the children because he could give them a stable home, something I could not do. That was seven years ago and the youngest was three at the time.

The decision was for the best of the children, but I donâ€t think there is anything “best” about not having a mother around.

I work as a cleaner at a hospital here in Durban. I take home R1,570 a month and I canâ€t afford to rent a house that I can live in with the children.

I live at Thokoza because it is in the CBD: transport does not cost me an arm and a leg and rent is cheap. I share a room with three other women – we sleep, cook and sometimes bath in the room.

It is not an ideal place to raise a child, and itâ€s no way adults should live either, but we are here to make a living, not to live in luxury. I have stayed here since 2007, since moving from my home in Nquthu.

I see my children once a year. I try to make my leave coincide with their school holidays, which is how I manage to spend time with them. I canâ€t visit them at their fatherâ€s house because he remarried – it would be awkward.

It hurts me that Iâ€m not there to parent, love, teach and guide my children to adulthood – I feel like I have failed them. It hurts when I see children wearing school uniforms because it reminds me of my children.

I get scared when I see young girls pregnant or the boys high on wunga in the streets of Durban because those children lack love somewhere and it might be the love Iâ€m not giving mine. What if they turn out like that?

I call them regularly, but no one can raise children via the phone. What is worse is that as they grow older, we are losing that mother-child bond.

I can tell during phone calls the children donâ€t need me as much as they used to. They donâ€t even call me Mom. They are my only children yet they canâ€t call me Mother because I donâ€t mother them.

I have contemplated moving back home, but there are no jobs in Nquthu. How will I feed the kids?

I am not the only mother going through this devastation. A solid solution is eThekwini Municipality improving our living conditions by building us family units. It has been on the cards since 2012, but we havenâ€t seen any action from them.

The court battle of mothers fighting to live with their kids here has again highlighted our plight. Although I fully support the fight, I canâ€t bring three children here. My only hope is that this fight will accelerate the delivery of family units.

In the meantime, I am losing the only children I have.

– As told to Zimasa Matiwane.
– Featured image: By Zimasa Matiwane. 

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