Mom tells how shack fire put an end to her dreams
A 44-year-old single mother of two told Weekend Argus she had hoped to have a son as soon as her little girl had started walking. But one fateful day changed her life. Mbali Khetani, now 14, was injured during a raging fire which displaced 8000 people in Langa.
Mbali was on her mother’s back as she was trying to save what she could of her belongings. Sindi Khetani continued to save her belongings. She had not realised that a piece of wood had hit her baby on the head. “It was only moments later when I had taken her off that I saw her head was swelling up, I rushed to get her help, and by the time she received medical care, the swelling had gotten worse,” said Sindi.
Now, the little girl is living with Hydrocephalus, which is a build-up of fluids in the cavities deep within the brain, as well as cerebral palsy. She is unable to walk, and her mother and older sister have to carry her around as there is no space for her wheelchair inside the house.
Earlier this week, Weekend Argus visited Mbali at her two-room temporary home. She had been waiting for the team to arrive, sitting on her mother’s bed in the one bedroom the three women share.
According to her older sister Lihle, Mbali was in a good mood. “You guys are lucky. She is happy today, and she is even smiling,” she said. As her mother and sister carried Mbali out to the living area, she began to smile and murmur that she wanted to go to the beach.
On a normal day, Mbali leaves for school in the morning, leaving her mother cleaning the house and cooking supper, because when she returns, her mother has to feed her and watch her play. Mbali’s wheelchair is now slightly too small for her. “She is growing fast and gaining weight, so the chair does not fit her nicely anymore,” explained her mother.
The shack the family lives in is small and cluttered. There is no space for Mbali to play. “She sits flat on her bum and drags herself around so she cannot do that outside because it is gravel. She is confined to this little space, so we have to watch her all the time. She could pull plugs, and she likes taking things out of the cupboards, so we have to watch her all the time,” her mother said.
Felicity Purchase, mayco member for Transport and Urban Development said: “The City of Cape Town requires the identity number of the parents in order to verify their status on the housing database and to determine whether the necessary documentation. Now that we have received the identity numbers, we will look into this matter.”
While Sindi is hopeful that her daughter may recover, and live somewhat of a normal life, she is despondent and feels helpless. “I used to help her with physio because I believe that if she gets regular treatments, she may at least be able to walk,” she said. Khetani suffered a stroke in 2011, and has not been able to assist her daughter with physiotherapy sessions at home. Now they have to rely on the one monthly sessions Mbali gets at the Red Cross Children’s hospital.
However, she is also not able to make all her appointments because of the distance from her home to the taxi rank, which is about 150 metres away.
“She has had nine operations to her head, she cannot walk, and I am not able to carry her on my own. The sad thing is that she was born normal. None of this is of our doing, but we have learnt to accept her the way she is, and we love her unconditionally. We only wish we could get more help for her,” pleaded her sister.
Purchase said: “The City of Cape Town has been providing the Dial-a-Ride (DAR) service to residents with special needs since 1999. DAR is for those persons who have special needs and are unable to use conventional or mainstream public transport services. All registered DAR users are required to be assessed by an occupational therapist to determine their eligibility to make use of the service.
“The parents or guardians of the child are therefore encouraged to contact DAR on 0800 600 895 for more information,” she added.
Ntomboxolo Makoba-Somdaka, spokesperson for MEC for Human Settlements Bonginkosi Madikizela, confirmed that Khetani applied for a house in 2008 but her application status is pending.
“According to our records, she is married and she was advised to complete the application form together with her husband.
“The Department learned today when she was contacted after we received a query from the media that her husband passed away. She must submit her late husband’s death certificate and update her details on the system,” said Somdaka.