Disability awareness month is commemorated every November. But the plight of people living with disabilities remains a constant. That is the case of a disabled couple from Shinira village in Elliotdale, Eastern Cape. They feel stripped of their dignity, living in a temporary structure that is not conducive for their condition. They have no ablution facilities and accessing water is also a problem.

Aaron Matshangana and his partner, Vuyokazi Ntsindo, first applied for an RDP house in 2007. Last year some assistance came, but it was only a temporary structure. It’s not suitable, but it’s their only home. And then further disaster struck when a storm damaged the house. They repaired it themselves, using their disability grants.

Matshangana says a decent house is the least of their worries.

“We don’t have a toilet here. There’s a hole that was built for everyone. But they eventually covered it, saying I need a special toilet. When it rains I can’t go out especially when it’s cold. I use a bucket and then go and dispose of the human waste when the rain stops.”

The couple struggles to move from and to their home due to the topography. Matshangana’s wife, Vuyokazi Ntsindo, says they rely on neighbours and relatives to push them uphill.

“I wish they could at least gravel the road to this house. That will make it easy for us to drive our wheelchairs. Even the children who push us uphill will do it easily if the path is graveled. Another thing is we wish we could get a site that is close to the road. Aaron even tried to speak to the local chief about the site but he said there is no vacant site. We want a piece of land where we will just alight from a vehicle and get into our house,” says Ntsindo.

Matshangana says just fetching water is a huge challenge.

“There’s a tap that is 100 meters downhill from where I am. So I struggle when I want to get some water because I have to carry a bucket and put it in-between the handles of the wheelchair.  I then dug it up while it pulls me back downhill because the road is sloppy. I spend about 30 minutes pulling it to the house. Sometimes I have to get off the wheelchair and try to pull it out when it’s stuck on the grass,” he adds.

The Spokesperson of the Amathole District Municipality, Nonceba Madikizela-Vuso, says they are addressing the situation.

“At the time ADM was installing sanitation structures at the area of Shinira, the Matshangana resident was left vacant because as we understand it, Mr Matshangana had left the province. Now it is important for ADM to do verification before putting up a sanitation structure in order to know if there are any special requirements or special needs for that particular family.

Since the return of Mr Matshangana, the local councillor has been in touch with ADM to indicate the special requirements for the Matshangana family and as such our service provider has been instructed to start the process of installing a sanitation structure for the family, and material has been ordered and this all will be concluded in no time.”

The couple is now living in hope that the changes to their living arrangement come sooner rather than later.