Man with leprosy has been fighting for a piece of land since 2004
29 July 2018 - 00:00
For one 64-year-old man, a small plot of land to call his own may be the only refuge from a disfiguring disease that has separated him from his family and left him a pariah in his community.
It brings hope that his children will return to him and his dignity be restored.
On Thursday, as hundreds of Gauteng residents queued in a packed Westonaria community hall to voice their opinion on a constitutional amendment that will allow land expropriation without compensation, Filipe Macuacua was carefully steered to the front of the line.
Macuacua's skeletal figure swayed slightly as he was pushed along in his wheelchair, his arms dangling between his knees and his gaze fixed on the panel of parliamentarians seated on the stage. He would be the first to speak, even though he has, for years now, lost that ability.Speaking on his behalf was Nombulelo Sithole, an aid worker whose organisation, the Concerned Christian Action Group, found Macuacua and his teenage daughter in an informal settlement in Swanieville near Krugersdorp more than a decade ago.
Sithole told the constitutional review committee that Macuacua has leprosy - a disease that affects the skin, mucous membranes and nerves. She described how Macuacua, originally from Mozambique, was a naturalised South African citizen who had worked in nearby mines for most of his life until he was struck down by the disease.
She has been fighting for a piece of land on his behalf since 2004.
While she spoke, Macuacua tried to string together a few words but all that emanated was a forced, deep-chested murmur. The pair left the mic without much attention from the audience.
Sithole presented two documents: one from the then Gauteng department of housing and the other from the former department of local government and housing, signed in 2004 and 2014 respectively.
Both acknowledge that Macuacua was on a waiting list for state housing and given preference because of his disease. Fourteen years since the first document, Macuacua is still without a home."I met him through his daughter, who was 14 years old at the time [in 2004]. His wife by that time had run away. They were in a shack and they wanted some help ... At that time, he came from the mines. We tried to ask the mine to help but they didn't because he was very sick and by that time, the wounds were open and nobody wanted to make contact with him," Sithole said.
"The situation is bad because he was staying in people's backyards. When the time comes, people chase him away. Right now, he is staying in a squatter camp ... The young daughter has grown up and wants to get something for herself and she cannot do it because of him."
Sithole said the government had not been any help.
"He's been to [the department of] human settlements lots of times. They tell him because he is a special case he will get a house. We've been to Johannesburg and Mogale City but nobody is willing to help him. We've been applying since 2004, again in 2009, and again in 2014. His biggest fear is what's going to happen to him because he only depends on a grant," she said.
For many others, the hearing became a platform for a racial onslaught.
Solly Mkhize said the government could not "shy away" from the issue.
"We cannot shy away from all the wars that were fought for the land. In 1913, it was legislation that forced black people out of their own land ... How can we give whites compensation for land that was stolen?"
The hearing descended into chaos after Phumla Boloshi, who identified herself as a DA member, said she did not support a constitutional amendment.
"We don't need to change the constitution. We need government action. Our young fellow Africans are lazy. What are they going to do with the land anyway? They cannot till the land," she said.
The final hearings will begin in the Western Cape this week...