A sad story of abuse

PHIRI CAWE

The abuse of people living with albinism must stop. This strong message was sent out by different organisations, among them Ses’khona People’s Movement, the Progressive Women’s Movement and the Khayelitsha Development Forum (KDF), at Ludwe Ngamlana Primary School, in Kuyasa, Khayelitsha on Friday March 11.

The organisations said they were driven by their commitment to human dignity, equality and respect, and vowed to protect the six members of the Tyongozi family who are all living with with albinism and claim they are subjected to verbal abuse by residents and school pupils. Night and day the family members endure insults and stone-throwing by pupils, and fear that their lives are in danger. They claimed some people have called them baboons and instructed them to go live in a forest.

Addresing the pupils in the presence of Themba Tyongozi and his son, Abongile, Se’skhona leader Andile Lili appealed to the perpetrators to change their conduct.

“We agreed with the school to meet with you today. We are here to tell you that we are all God’s creation. You are still young and you are the future of this country. You will still have children and you do not know what the future holds for you. Some of you throw stones at the Tyongozi family, hurl insults at them and even tell them that they do not belong here. Stop that abuse. These are people just like you and me,” he said.

Mr Lili said no one, including people living with albinism, should be discriminated against because of the colour of their skin, race or gender. The Ses’khona leader promised to go back to the school to bring more people to raise awareness. “Let us treat each other with respect and in a dignified manner that would see us grow together as one. This gospel should be preached even by these young people,” he said, to applause from the pupils.

KDF deputy chairperson Nomthandazo Msutu added: “Ayizonkawu okanye iimfene ezi (these are not monkeys or baboons),” she said, pointing at Themba and his son. “Please stop hurling insults at them or pelting their shack with stones and other objects.”

Ms Msutu said the Tyongozis had to take their children to a school in Athlone because of abuse they suffered at local schools.

In an interview with Vukani, Ms Msutu partly blamed the teachers.

“This is a poor family but they were forced to take their children to as far as Athlone because of abuse and yet the teachers were here. They should have protected them from the abuse,” she said, calling on teachers to work with the community to root out discrimination against those who have albinism.

Progressive Women’s Movement chairwoman Nzwaki Qeqe called for calm, saying children needed to know that albinism was a condition and asked that in natural science lessons, children are taught about pigmentation.

The distraught family said they have been mistreated for years.

Mr Tyongozi said the bad treatment became worse last year when some members of the community got involved.

“I am tired of this treatment. Just last week these children were throwing things here. There are just a lot of things that happened. Even some of the senior local people were involved in the abuse until we held a meeting with some,” he said.

Mr Tyobonzi said he was grateful that at least there were people who stood up for them. He said the abuse of the those who lived with albinism should be tackled by the whole community.

“My advice would be for communities to rise up. I normally hear that there were awareness events in Bellville or somewhere outside Khayelitsha, (but) I believe those awareness (events) should be here as well. You cannot solve a problem if you (are) running away from where it happens all the time,” he said.

School principal Noloyiso Mtimba-Dube promised to build good partnerships with the organisations to fight the abuse of people living with albinism.