Covid-19: A blind couple’s battle to find food in Louis Trichardt

The couple from Zimbabwe say they relied on money from begging outside stores to buy food and pay rent

Photo of Willie and Fungai

Willie Chimuka and Fungai Pepukai wandering the streets of Louis Trichardt in Limpopo. They say before the lockdown, they were able to buy food and pay rent with the money they made from begging outside local stores. Photo: Bernard Chiguvare

By Bernard Chiguvare

16 April 2020

A blind couple who mostly rely on money they get from begging outside stores in Louis Trichardt, Limpopo, are battling to make ends meet.

Willie Chimuka and Fungai Pepukai moved to South Africa from Zimbabwe in 2018. The couple has four children. Three live in Zimbabwe with Chimuka’s parents and one lives with them.

The couple previously attended Kapota, a special school for the blind in Masvingo.

Chimuka, 43, said he usually sat near the entrance to Spar while Pepukai sat outside Jet, but since the lockdown, they have not been able to collect enough money for food and rent. When Groundup met the couple, they were on their way to Makhado Police Station to request permission to return to their begging spots.

“We really appreciate the government’s efforts … We were prepared and had everything in place [for the lockdown] but now the extension is a challenge to us. We pay rent on the 15th of every month. This money is budgeted but the challenge is if we pay rent we are going without food for the extended days,” said Chimuka.

“We can not sit home and relax. All we need is permission to go back to our usual begging spots. If we do not, the family is going to go for days without food. Every month we send money and some food back home. Our parents are just peasant farmers and they cannot do much to support our children,” said Chimuka.

Chimuka said that the police advised them to stay home as movement will endanger their lives and those of others.

Witness Tiva from Limpopo Department of Social Development said the department was running a programme, distributing food parcels to those in need. He advised the couple to visit a local councillor who would take the matter up with the social workers in the area.

GroundUp approached a social worker at a local shelter who said they were only allowed to assist people who stayed at, or were willing to move into, the shelter at Makhado Showground for the duration of the lockdown. But the couple told GroundUp they would not be comfortable leaving their belongings at the rented house.

It is unclear where Chimuka and Pepukai will get their next meal.