My undignified life in a shack - paralysed woman

News24 Correspondent

Pretoria - “I want a life with basic necessities so I can also enjoy the gains that have come with our democracy, but I’m being denied that opportunity.”

Those were the words of Rachel Tlhabadira, 57, a paraplegic woman from Ward 37 in Soshanguve.

The wheelchair-bound Tlhabadira sobs as she explains her living conditions in a shack that is not wheelchair-friendly.

The unemployed mother of two lost the use of her legs in April 2003 after she was involved in a taxi accident. She has been wheelchair-bound ever since and has been living in the area for 12 years.

She lives with her two grown children and one grandchild. She depends mostly on social grants to get by. Her daughter is the only employed person in the house.

The biggest challenge

“I don't have water in my yard. The water I'm drinking is from the neighbour. I also don't have a toilet. I also don't have anywhere to move around with my wheelchair. If it rains, I can't go to the clinic,” she told News24.

Tlhabadira’s biggest challenge is relieving herself.

With no running water, she does not have a flushing toilet and the only place she can use is a small shack with a hole in the ground.

“When I go to the toilet, I have to leave my wheelchair outside the tiny door and crawl on the ground to the hole. Once I’m done, I use the sides of the shack to balance myself and crawl back to my chair,” she said.

She said attempts to get assistance for a toilet from the local councillor Sphiwe Montla and the ward committee have allegedly all been futile.

“I have been speaking to the local ward councillor since 2013 asking for water and he promised to bring a truck, but I'm on a wheelchair and I can't carry buckets. The truck driver just parks outside, looks at me and leaves as I can't do anything.

Feeling neglected

“I want a meter installed in my house so I can pay my rates and be like all other South Africans. When I ask them for a toilet, I'm asked what makes me important... while other people [in the area] still don't have toilets,” she said.

Reflecting on her life and the democratic dispensation, Tlhabadira said she felt the government had neglected her.

“The last time I voted was during 1994. Ever since then I have not been able to vote, because I can't make it to the venues,” she added.

Attempts to get comment from Montla were unsuccessful. His phone was off and he did not respond to a text message.

City of Tshwane spokesperson Lindela Mashigo said the councillor had indicated "milestones" had been reached. There was a sewer system in the area and the city was working toward ensuring every household had access.