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image She demonstrates how she gets the red ochre using a knife while her grandchildren watch.

ESITSENI –  Culturally, red ochre (libovu) is commonly used for matrimonial purposes, but Gogo Lanuka Betty Kunene eats it as a meal when all sources of food run dry.

According to Swazi culture, a woman is smeared by her in-laws with red ochre as a sign of being part of the new family.
Gogo Betty shares the red ochre meal with her three grandsons, who are aged three, four and 11 years old.
“Sometimes we go to sleep on empty stomachs. And when there is no food we eat red ochre,” she said pointing at a site where she digs the red ochre. The site is situated behind one of her stick and mud houses.


Without waiting for any approval, the hyper active 68-year old woman stood up and demonstrated how she harvested and ate libovu.
Armed with a blade, Gogo Betty knelt next to a small pit and scrapped the surface.
The term she used to describe the scrapping was kukebha.

After collecting enough, Gogo Betty took a handful of the red soil and swallowed it. She did not flinch or show any signs of discomfort.
She then took another handful of the soil, put it in a cup full of water and stirred and fed the mixture to her two grandsons.
Gogo Betty emphasised: “We eat it because of poverty. And seeing the little ones crying for food that is not there – it’s painful. That is why I then make them drink the mixture.”

The old woman pointed out that they only have a decent meal when she gets her monthly grant.
Government, through the Deputy Prime Minister’s office offers the elderly E600 every three months.
This is equivalent to E200 per month.
Gogo Betty said: “I buy rice, candles and soup packets with my monthly grant.”

She said she sometimes received support from her children, especially the fathers of the two young boys who stay with her.
She mentioned that the eldest, Thabo does not eat the red ochre because he gets food from school.
A neighbour Lindiwe Kunene said she once found the old woman eating the red ochre with her grandchildren.
“It was a very sorry sight. But with the help of neighbours and other community members, we now provide the family with food. However, it is not much because we also have to feed our own families,” she said.

What further aggravates Gogo Betty’s situation, according to Kunene, is that the old woman was expected to take care of the three grandchildren, who were literally dumped on her. 
She said Gogo Betty’s sons some who are working in South Africa barely visit home.
“She also has three daughters who are married (bendza). We have not seen them for a long time. We do not know if they are dead or alive,” the concerned neighbour mentioned.
Kunene said they were concerned about the welfare and living conditions of the old woman.
When contacted for comment about Gogo Betty”s predicament, Social Welfare Deputy Director Moses Dlamini said this should not be happening.
“I will send officers to investigate the matter. The officers will conduct what we term a socio-economic report.
“After looking at the report, we will then take the appropriate action,” he assured.
Dlamini said they would make a full report after compiling the socio-economic report. 
Former Deputy Prime Minister Themba Masuku likened Gogo Betty’s story to that of another old woman of Siteki who was reported to be eating cow dung.
Masuku, who is known to be passionate on issues pertaining to elderly people, suggested that the matter should be reported to the Social Welfare, a department under the office of the DPM.

Comments (10 posted):

richard remington dlamini on 12/10/2013 08:43:30
joh.maye kubuhlngu vele,bt Inkhosi iyati.
Maly on 12/10/2013 09:04:47
This is so sad. We swazis lets learn to help each other,thiz is too bad how can one survive with soil while there are people always dumping leftovers on bins evryday??
Lord hav a mercy on us,lets be supportive swaziland otherwise we going no whre.
Analysis Swazi Dlamini on 12/10/2013 09:56:07
Akusuyena yedwa ugogo Betty odla imbuya
ngothi.Baningi kabi bantu abantulayo laSwazini.They all need help and we congratulate gogo Betty for being exposed and we hope she will make international headline line that other gogo who eat cow-dung.
We love our people but when we challenge tinkhundla on this regard,they call us terrorists and people who are out to ruin the country's image.What image does such country have?
Wealth is too concentrated on few families and all we want as democracy loving citizens is an equal share for all.
sbu on 12/10/2013 09:58:14
......and you have the audacity to report that she ate the red ochre in your presence.....where is your humaneness.....disappointed!
philile nkosie on 12/10/2013 11:01:22
this is so sad, im feeling sorry for Gogo Betty,I wish to help her I hope its a wake up call to every neighbour as the bible says, love your neighbour as U love yourself.Please Swazis lets show Ubuntu, this is embarrassing for the old woman and is not healthy.
mbho shongwe on 12/10/2013 11:20:35
Where is this issue taking the country to ? First it was cow dung and now red ochre and this will be followed by denial. How many Swazis are eating anything because cannot afford a normal meal in both the rural and urban areas but have not been exposed to the media eyes ?

asande dlamini on 12/10/2013 13:36:03
this is so sad..how can gogo's children dump their kids with her when they are not gona support...i wish they rot in hell for being irresponsibl...they are so heartless an married to monsters who dznt care abt their past....yinyandzaleyo ke nayi
Eugene Mayer on 12/10/2013 14:25:14
please send me Gogo'contact details for a small contribution.
Cebile Hlophe on 13/10/2013 05:40:08
I feel sorry the woman. Wish her children were reading this and make plans to help their mother if they can have a plan. Also the goverment can make a step on this issue this is serious.
For Elderly on 13/10/2013 06:29:56
That's why we against political greed as demonstrated by Circular no 1, 2010. We hear that politicians will get their Circular no. 1 benefits in full despite the outcome of the Pwc report. I hope this isn't true. But we'll be watching come end of this month. The money needs to be given to the elderly.

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