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CONCERNED CHRISTIAN ACTION GROUP


Consists of  a small group of people who try to respond effectively to the challenge of becoming a community serving humanity. They see it as their calling to serve, like Mother Theresa, the poorest of the poor and where possible to help them get a fair deal from the community and or the state. What follows is a typical of many stories. If, after reading it, you feel moved to get involved with this service, call Mick Dennehy.

At one of our CONCERNED CHRISTIAN ACTION GROUP community service information and guidance meetings, which are held on a weekly basis at the mission which serves the impoverished people living in shacks at Moshongoville and Mayibuwye Squatter Camps in the Krugersdorp area, there was a late arrival. She was a pathetic figure of a bent and obviously overstressed woman, wearing the drab dark purple mourning garb which, in keeping with her tribal tradition, a wife would wear for up to three years following the death of her husband.

Speaking through her interpreter in very subdued and hardly audible tones, Sindiswa Xabaniso explained that she had lived a very stressful life as a result of having been left alone to provide for her children, since her common-law husband Caiphus Mondlane had suffered a fatal stroke three years previously. What had greatly added to her burden in this situation, was the fact that she was born and raised in a remote district of the Transkei, where in the years of her youth there had been no school to attend, so she had grown into adulthood illiterate and unskilled by modern standards. This had effectively blocked her chances of finding employment, other than in the limited field of what she described as poorly paid and irregular "piece jobs", thus creating the conditions in which together with her children, she had been living, well below the bread line.

Sindiswa went on to explain in vague and unconvincing terms that she "seemed" to remember her late husband telling her that some ten years ago, that he had agreed to a suggestion by his employer, that an amount should be deducted from his weekly wages to be paid into what one could only suppose was a Company group insurance scheme.

She was asked if she had made any enquiry about this at her husband's place of work? Sindiswa said that her husband had not lived with her during the week, but at a labourer's hostel close to his work. The fact that she did not know the name of the factory nor the area in which it was situated gave one the foreboding of a bumpy ride ahead.

At this point Sindiswa broke down and shed copious tears with much sobbing, creating an atmosphere which was not pleasant to witness. Eventually she settled down and seemed greatly comforted when told that she would not be left alone but would be helped as far as we were able.

Sindiswa's problem was discussed by all of us and then she was then taken in the Ministry car with her interpreter Saffeira, to her squatter camp. She was accompanied to her shack and we talked to those around her to find out whether her late husband had been friendly with any of the neighbours who might be able to tell us the area and the name of the factory where Caiphus had worked.

During these discussions it emerged that Sindiswa had twice been admitted to a psychiatric hospital in recent times, but there was no information on Caiphus' work. The neighbours explained that Caiphus, in order to support his family, had seized on every opportunity to work overtime, so that when he came home for weekends, he would simply sleep the hours away, so that he would be sufficiently rested to start work on Monday morning. Thus, Caiphus had not formed friendships with those living in nearby shacks and so no one was able to shed light on where he had worked. 

During the following week a taxi owner, hearing of Sindiwisa's plight came forward with the information that he seemed to remember Caiphus asking the cost of transport to Luipaardsvlei industrial area. This was brought to our next weekly meeting and it was decided that our field worker should take Sindiswa and Saffeira her interpreter in the Ministry car to Luipaardsvlei and then go from factory to factory enquiring whether Caiphus had worked there.

The disappointments encountered along the way proved discouraging indeed, and this was made more challenging by the time consuming nature of the exercise. In the crime ridden times in which we live, each factory was  surrounded by  high fences and the gates were manned by Security Guards, who had obviously been trained to view strangers with dark suspicion. So it happened that before being allowed to set foot on the sacred ground inside the entrance gate, solemn words of explanation had to be exchanged in what seemed to us to be over elaborated discussion and cross examination, before being admitted to the Office where the whole background story had then to be repeated to the Personnel Manager. Eventually, when they were close to the end of their patience, they met a positive response when a smiling  and obviously enthusiastic Security Guard said that he recognised Caiphus from his Identity Document and that he had been a good friend when he had worked there.

There was a feeling of exhilaration when  the two members of the Concerned Christian Action Group with Sindiswa were shepherded to the Main Office where they were introduced to the Personnel Manager  who consulted his computer looking for the information relating to Caiphus and to our great disappointment told us that there was absolutely no record of Caiphus having been on the company payroll!

We found ourselves back at square one. However, during the detailed discussions that followed it turned out that Caiphus had probably been recruited through a Labour Agency and in terms of the contract he had remained on the Agency's payroll, as opposed to being on the factory's payroll, so he should have been on the Agency pension and death benefit scheme. At last we were close to home and dry!

What a happy day it was for all involved when the death benefit amount of R 57 798.00 was eventually paid into the Bank account which we had guided Sindiswa in opening, and a qualified expert in the field of sound money management had agreed to supply her with a service at no charge.
February 2005