Senior citizens share empowering life stories

Nowezile Mfengwana relivies the past with other seniors at the Kulani library in Khayelitsha.

Nowezile Mfengwana thought she was done talking about pass laws and the apartheid regime.

But 60 years after the iconic women’s march to Pretoria, she found herself telling others how she was arrested and abused by apartheid police while she was working for a white family in Cape Town.

She was arrested while going to the shop to buy a loaf of bread.

Alongside her was a little “master’s boy”. The ruthless black police officer asked for her pass but she did not have one.

They put her and the young boy in the back of the police van and took her to Langa where she found other black women who had been arrested and locked in a cell.

These are just some of the stories of struggle and sacrifice which were shared by senior citizens at the Kulani library in Khayelitsha as part of a Women’s Day celebration organised by the library.

The aim was to have seniors share stories and also join the library’s reading club as young people would benefit from their presence.

The seniors, who have established Masibambane club , said growing older had its challenges.

“They have decided to come together to read, weave and do all sorts of things that they feel will keep them happy.

The 81-year-old Ms Mfengwana said she lived in Langa during difficult times .

She said what kept them happy was that black people were more united than theyare today. “You want me to talk about dark days and pass laws.

“I thought I would never again talk about it. But now you are saying I must share with you. I will. We were abused by white police officers. They hated us.

“The irony was that they used black officers to arrest us.

“When I was arrested, I was pregnant and was made to sleep on the floor with thin blankets. We were many and we all had no pass.

“It was tough then,” she told the handful of other seniors and young residents.

Ms Mfengwana said her husband was a fighter and had encouraged her to stand up to the authorities.

“UNyawuza careless about the police. He had his pass and would not take a damn from them. I liked his courage.

“He always encouraged me to fight back when they arrested me,” she said.

Senior librarian Weziwe Ben said the senior women had a lot to give, not only in terms of their careers but also in a social context.

She said the reading programme is to ensure that women provide support to others to root out loneliness and crimes like domestic violence.

“We are building a relationship with them. We also open library cards for them and a book club. ”We have a very healthy relationship with our seniors,”she said.

She urged them to network all the times in order to improve their lives.

Ward 92 councillor Xolisa Peter also took to the stage to appeal to seniors to be vigilant of people using them for political gains. Ms Peter thanked them for their contribution in the fight for the emancipation of women. “We urge them to continue teaching us. We value them for who they are. They have done us great. They fought for us to see freedom and its gains,” she said.