18 July 2012
On Monday evening, while the city of Pretoria was in the grip of a cold spell, Jonathan Thopola fought with his friends over a blanket and ended up having to spend the night with nothing covering his freezing body.
But on Tuesday night he was able to sleep warmly and peacefully, after receiving a blanket from Deputy Minister of Women, Children and People with Disabilities Hendrietta Bogopane-Zulu and her team.
Aged 23, Thopola from Mpulamanga left his home in January this year to find work in Pretoria. However, after two months, he lost his job and couldn’t afford to pay rent for the room he was sharing with some people, and for the past five months he has been sleeping on the street while trying to get another job.
On Tuesday, Thopola had a reason to smile. He and some of the other people living on the streets in and around Tshwane got a surprise visit from Bogopane-Zulu, who cheered them up and made sure they had a warm and decent meal.
As part of celebrating International Nelson Mandela Day, Bogopane-Zulu decided to dedicate 67 minutes of her time to handing over thermal mugs with soup, pizza, bread, cake, juice and blankets to people living on the streets.
This was made possible due to a partnership between the department, Mmabatho Foundation, Absa Bank, Bidair and Romans Pizza.
Bogopane-Zulu said she had decided to dedicate her 67 minutes to homeless people because she wanted to bring hope to them and let them know that even though they were on the streets, they still had human rights and also deserved to enjoy freedom like all South Africans.
“Half of the time, we turn a blind eye on some of the realities we live under,” said Bogopane-Zulu. “It’s hard for them to be heard and be recognised. However, they are here and are not going anywhere, due to various reasons which brought them here. The best we can do is to keep them warm and give them things they can use.”
Thopola, who couldn’t hold back his excitement after being handed a blanket, said the initiative showed that even though they have nothing, their existence was being acknowledged and appreciated by Bogopane-Zulu.
“They’ve brought us expensive food and new blankets, which shows that they are thinking about us in this freezing weather and it means a lot to all of us knowing that they care,” said Thopola, who sleeps at Church Square.
Bogopane-Zulu also visited homeless people on the streets of Pretoria East, where she handed over more food and blankets.