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It was glorious, warm Highveld weather − perfect to celebrate Mandela Day. There was a sense of excitement as tables were brought to the front of our Salvation Army headquarters in Braamfontein, Johannesburg. Then Karina Haynes and her friendly staff arrived from the Parktonian Hotel (our neighbour) with two enormous, piping hot pots of soup and baskets filled with bread which they put onto one of the tables. The other was for our literature on anti-human trafficking.
The excitement built as the delicious food aroma spread and the joyous sound of music from our world-renowned brass band filled the air. Within minutes a curious crowd gathered and soon a long, patient queue had formed. For many this would be their only meal of the day.
I − yes, your editor − called everyone’s attention to thank them for joining in this Mandela Day celebration and thank God for the excellent food generously donated by the Parktonian. Children, women and men of all ages found spots to sit in the sun. Staff from our Public Relations Department helped serve the food while our officers of all ranks took the opportunity to wander among the people and chat.
There was a wide cross-section from many parts of the country. Thando Rafani (34) came from Port Elizabeth to seek work after his wife passed away, leaving his daughter (11) in PE to live with his sister. He is a proud porter at Park Station and lives in a nearby shelter. He loves God and wants to help people as The Salvation Army does!
Tragically, Zindela (36) was shot in the knee while sleeping in a doorway. Now he walks with a crutch, with difficulty − and he walks the Jo’burg streets all day, searching for work as a baker. This is made more difficult since he lost his Identity Document six years ago. He sleeps in a Hillbrow park.
Surprisingly, 48-year-old Moremoliob from Lesotho is a final year student at North West University studying management and development! He happened to be passing through the Golden City.
Malawian Zanib (31), a domestic worker, came to Johannesburg in January, with her 20-month-old baby, Hanna. She and her babe seek shelter in doorways during the cold winter months.
Sadly another homeless soul, Marietjie (54), lost her daughter who left her three children to look after. She works three days a week, cleaning toilets and cars, but does not earn enough to support herself or her grand children. Tearfully she told us that her prayers have just been answered as a cousin on the father’s side has agreed to care for them. For her, this is also likely to be the only meal of the day.
On Mandela Day we fed 260 people. The great man’s dream of a better South Africa is a long time coming!