The Pieterse family - living on R10 per person per day

23 August 2017 - 07:00 By Petru Saal
Katie and Adam Pieterse from Stellenbosch.
Katie and Adam Pieterse from Stellenbosch.
Image: Ruvan Boshoff

The tiny farm house in Stellenbosch is cold and dark. Rain crashes to the ground and the soil quickly turns to mud but Katie and Adam Pieterse wear warm and inviting smiles. Living in poverty is not going to put a damper on their lives. They have been living this way for many years.

“[My grandson] couldn’t go to school this morning because there is no electricity. He couldn’t make breakfast or boil some water to bath in‚” said Katie.

The Pieterse family epitomises the findings of a report on poverty released by StatsSA on Tuesday.

There are 10 people living in the family’s two-bedroom home. They survive on Adam and Katie’s social grants‚ which total R3‚200 a month. That comes to about R10 per day for each family member – way below the food poverty line‚ according to StatsSA.

StatsSA revealed that in 2015 a quarter of the population‚ 13.8 million people‚ were living in extreme poverty and below the food poverty line of R17.48 per person per day – the amount needed to meet one person’s minimum energy requirements.

Katie married her Prince Charming 40 years ago. Four children later and she still glows when sitting next to him in their dimly lit lounge. The 60-year-old had worked in a kitchen on a farm and Adam was a labourer. But since retiring a few years ago they have been struggling to survive.

It is not uncommon for the electricity to run out. She buys a R200 electricity token at the beginning of the month and said that if it runs out the family just has to cope without it.

Their son does gardening jobs every now and then and earns about R150 a day.

“Some days I feel sad over our situation. The money we have doesn’t last for the entire month. I am a grandmother and I cannot even buy my grandchildren things. I cannot spoil them the way I want to‚” she said.

“I would be so thankful if government would increase the social grant because that is the only income we can rely on. My husband works every now and then but it is not a stable job. He is old and that counts against him‚” she said.

Adam‚ 64‚ was forced to retire at the age of 55.

“One day my boss told me that I am of retirement age … I was too old and couldn’t work there anymore. They need younger men to do my job. But I can still do hard labour‚ even better than the younger kids‚” he said.

Their walls are plastered with photographs. But the most prized image is of their 33-year-old-son who died in May.

“I still cry every day‚” said a tearful Katie.

Their son had diabetes and suffered kidney failure. Their faces tell a tale of continued hardship. Katie and Adam both wipe away tears as they recall watching their son deteriorating.

“The doctor told us last year already that he will not live long‚ but nothing prepares you for death‚ especially the death of your child. He was my baby‚” said Katie.

But the family is grateful for one thing - Adam is cancer free. He developed a cancerous tumour on his tongue.

“I went for the operation. After my last check-up in November‚ I was told that I am completely cancer-free‚” said Adam.

When he delivered the news to his family‚ they all burst into tears.

“I asked them why they were crying. I am not dead‚ I am still alive I told them.”

Shopping list for the Pieterse family

  • Maize meal
  • Bread flour
  • Coffee
  • Tea
  • Sugar
  • Milk
  • Cooldrink (syrup that is mixed with water)
  • Potatoes
  • Carrots
  • Cabbage
  • Onions
  • Soya mince
  • Chicken

- Additional reporting by Farren Collins