Estimated reading time: 3 minutes
Sitting in his wheelchair at the intersection of Kirkland and Voortrekker Street, Thokozani Siphiwe Sithole is one of Newcastle’s many homeless people. While sporting a friendly smile and humble demeanor, Thokozani’s life is one of constant struggle.
He opens up by explaining, “It is hard living on the streets, especially in a wheelchair, as there are some people who think I like being here and begging for money. There are even those who think I can walk and pretend I need a wheelchair. The way some people talk to me, goes straight to my heart, making me feel worse about being here. If I could, I would not be here, but I need to eat.”
Thokozani adds he was left in a wheelchair, after falling from the fourth floor of a block of flats in Johannesburg a few years back. “I cannot remember what happened that day, I wish I could, but I have been in a wheelchair ever since that day.”
When looking at the way the Newcastle community treats him, he states Newcastillians’ attitudes towards him are diverse. He elaborates, “There are some who see me and smile, helping where they can. But others just close their windows. I have even had some try to hit me with their cars.”
Despite the hostility shown to him by certain community members, he claims the generosity by the kinder residents cannot be ignored. “There are people who stop to give me food, blankets, and clothing. I have even been given a new wheelchair, while others have stopped to help fix my wheelchair’s wheels when it does not want to work well.”
Working from earlier the morning until late in the afternoon, Thokozani says at the end of the day, he sleeps outside a nearby local supermarket. “It is not nice at all and it isn’t safe. The other night, as I was lying down to sleep, a guy stopped to pee and he didn’t see me on the ground, so he landed up peeing on me. It was only when I called out, did he stop.”
Furthermore, he explains there are occasions when people fight on the streets, throwing bottles at each other, which sees him attempting to hide in the shadows, trying to avoid being caught in the crossfire. In addition, he says, “I have been robbed of my clothes, my food, and the money I collected. I have actually started asking nearby shopkeepers who know me, to hold onto my clothes now, so it doesn’t get stolen.”
Manoeuvring through Newcastle’s less-caring residents, while trying to avoid being targeted by criminals, Thokozani stresses one of the most difficult parts about living in the streets of Newcastle, while being confined to a wheelchair is trying to stay clean. “I am forced to use the water running down the roads at times, and if I can get clean water, it is difficult trying to carry it in a container on my wheelchair. Sometimes, I rely on the rain to wash.”
As he struggles to survive, Thokozani points out that he has a sister and two brothers in Johannesburg. However, they can unfortunately not assist him in his daily life, due to their financial constraints.
With Thokozani Sithole finding himself restrained to life on Newcastle’s streets, enduring a reality many of us cannot imagine. Be sure to help this beautiful soul, potentially assisting him just have a better day.
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