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Couple’s last-ditch plea for their own house

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For the elderly couple life in a shanty means having to endure Kimberley’s freezing winters and boiling hot summers

File image. Picture: Soraya Crowie

THE TRUE impact of the lack of service delivery is etched like a storybook on the faces of Japie Poolman and his wife Sophia, who have been living in a shanty in Jacksonville for more than 20 years.

Seventy-one-year-old Sophia, who has a pacemaker, and Japie, who is physically disabled and uses shoes fitted with metal braces to support his legs, braced the cold weather on Friday and slowly hobbled the 20 kilometres into town in a desperate attempt to share their plight with the DFA in a last-ditch plea for their own house.

“All around us, there are houses being built,” the couple, clutching onto their folded bits of official documentation, said. “But we are still living in the same shanty where we have been for the last 20 years. It is not fair.”

According to Japie, the two have walked “how many times already” to the municipality to plead their case but no one is telling them anything.

“The municipality’s housing department wants us to pay R500 for a house – where will we ever get that money from? Others get their houses for free. We do not even have money for the taxi fare to get back home now.”

Japie explains that the plot on which his shanty has been erected is in his own name and that’s where he wants to stay. “It is mine,” he states.

But for the elderly couple living in a shanty means having to endure Kimberley’s freezing winters and boiling hot summers.

“The cold isn’t good for her heart,” Japie says, referring to Sophia, who shows the scar where the pacemaker was implanted a year ago in Bloemfontein, together with her hospital card, indicating that her next follow-up appointment is soon.

The two add that they are totally alone in the world and dependent on each other. “My mother was murdered in her sleep,” Japie states. “I was found in the veld where I had been abandoned.”

He was raised at Mimosa Home in Kimberley and was sent to Cape Town where he underwent several operations to help him walk. His one arm, however, hangs limply at his side and he suffers from epilepsy.

“He cannot walk far because he has falling down sickness,” Sophia explains, while Japie shows where the metal rods built into his shoes cut into his skin.

“It is sore to walk because the metal digs into my legs. The clinic . . . they are also not good to me there and don’t care.”

Sophia is also alone. “I was born in South West but my mother burnt to death. The state raised me.”

Yet the state has done little to ensure that the couple ever achieves their dream of moving out of their shanty into a brick house, which promises the warmth of thicker walls and a solid roof, together with running water and electricity.

“Our shanty leaks when it rains. During a heavy gust of wind the other day we lost all our zinc sheets on the roof.

“The municipality promised to help replace the zinc but they never did and we had to make a plan ourselves.”