A photograph safely stashed in her wallet is as close as she gets to her children for most of theÂ year. NOKWANDA MNCWANGO* (46) has been living without her two daughters and son since 2007,Â and says their mother-child relationship is dwindling.Â Mncwango opened up to Zimasa Matiwane about how her living conditions and how a no-children policy at Thokoza HostelÂ in DurbanÂ have denied her children a mother.
After I separated from my husband we decided that he must take the children because he could giveÂ them a stable home, something I could not do. That was seven years ago and the youngest wasÂ three at the time.
The decision was for the best of the children, but I donâ€™t think there is anything “best” about notÂ having a mother around.
I work as a cleaner at a hospital here in Durban. I take home R1,570 aÂ month and I canâ€™t afford to rent a house that I can live in with the children.
I live at Thokoza becauseÂ it is in the CBD: transport does not cost me an arm and a leg and rent is cheap. I share a room withÂ three other women â€“ we sleep, cook and sometimes bath in the room.
It is not an ideal place to raiseÂ 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 isÂ how I manage to spend time with them. I canâ€™t visit them at their fatherâ€™s house because heÂ remarried â€“ it would be awkward.
It hurts me that Iâ€™m not there to parent, love, teach and guide myÂ children to adulthood â€“ I feel like I have failed them. It hurts when I see children wearing schoolÂ uniforms because it reminds me of my children.
I get scared when I see young girls pregnant or theÂ boys high on wunga in the streets of Durban because those children lack love somewhere and itÂ might be the love Iâ€™m not giving mine. What if they turn out like that?
I call them regularly, but no oneÂ 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. TheyÂ donâ€™t even call me Mom. They are my only children yet they canâ€™t call me Mother because I donâ€™tÂ mother them.
I have contemplated moving back home, but there are no jobs in Nquthu. How will I feed the kids?
IÂ am not the only mother going through this devastation. A solid solution is eThekwini MunicipalityÂ improving our living conditions by building us family units. It has been on the cards since 2012, butÂ we havenâ€™t seen any action from them.
The court battle of mothers fighting to live with their kidsÂ here has again highlighted our plight. Although I fully support the fight, I canâ€™t bring threeÂ children here. My only hope is that this fight will accelerate the delivery of family units.
In theÂ meantime, I am losing the only children I have.