That poor woman. I can imagine her despair. Well, I think I can.

She is alone with three children under the age of four, all severely disabled. Not only that, but they also have a shortened life expectancy, So, all this work, this incredible burden, this never-ending slog has to be borne without even a glimmer of hope at the end of the tunnel. It is all for nothing. The care, the love, the sacrifice lead to nothing but untimely death. Perhaps one could consider an early death merciful in this case. But it is not just one, its three. Spinal muscular atrophy in three children. The guilt of knowing it is your own genes. Almost as if you brought it upon yourself. Of course, she shouldn’t think that way. But she does; anyone would. Constantly tells herself that she shouldn’t…then the thought of her genes being damaging creeps back in. Maybe even blame; where does she get the gene from? her mother? maybe both parents genes contributed through each having the recessive gene for this condition. And on top of all this mental exhaustion, the physical exhaustion.

Her husband leaves with their eldest daughter to visit family in South Africa. He has escaped temporarily. For her there is no escape. She gets through her day somehow, wishing it would all end. Knowing she cannot go on. She cannot see any way out; does not know how to cope and life stretches ahead of her like a waterless desert. The thought has been lurking at the edge of her consciousness. It becomes larger and larger until she resolves to end this turmoil. She is rational not hysterical.

She writes a note in Afrikaans to her husband telling him not allow their eldest daughter into any of the bedrooms. Her hands tremble slightly as she sticks it to the post at the bottom of the staircase with prestik. She is terrified but determined and feels a sense of relief that this nightmare is about to end. She cannot consider her husband at this time or even think about what he will go through when he arrives home to four dead bodies. She tells herself that after a while he will come to understand and maybe even thank her.

She cannot consider her eldest daughter at this time either or even think about what robbing her of a mother and three siblings in one fell swoop will do to her. She tells herself that her daughter would have lost her siblings in a few years’ time anyway. At least this way, their years together will be shortened thus lessening the time in which she could bond with them. By the time she is older, she will hardly remember them. And who needs a mother like her anyway? a mother who is so pre-occupied with caring for the other three that she never has time or patience with the eldest. No, he husband is an attractive man. He’ll find someone else soon enough who can be a far better mother to her. All this flashes through her mind as she slowly ascends the stairs.

She makes her way to the first bedroom. She strokes her daughter’s hair as she sleeps and rubs her cheek with the side of her finger. No more struggle for you, my little darling. She picks up the pillow and puts it over the child’s face. Smothers her. It is not long before her breathing stops and her pulse beats no more.

She turns around without looking at the still form and goes to the twins’ bedroom. She looks down on them, wondering who should go first. The eldest. She does it again. And again.

She walks slowly to her own bedroom, kneels on the floor and says a prayer for them. She stands up. Numbed. No regret. No horror at her actions. She simply wants to be the next to join them. The tranquilisers she had been given when the twins were still babies are in the drawer next to her bed. She had not used them much as they knocked her sideways but she had kept them. There were twelve left. She swallows them all with some water, lies down on her bed and waits for them to take effect. She stares at the patterns on the ceiling thinking how strange it is that this is the last time she will be looking at them. Her eyes close and she drifts into a drugged sleep. Never to wake again.

Except she does. The next morning she stirs, opens her eyes. Her heart sinks like a stone into her stomach. Why am I still here? I am meant to be dead. What has happened? Slowly she realises the pills did not work. Why not? why not? the voice in her head screams. One pill used to knock me for six; surely twelve should have killed me? So my nightmare will not end. It is going to be worse. I am a murderer. I will have to face my husband and my daughter with what I have done.

Tears stream down her face. She turns and buries her head in the pillow, sobbing. She doesn’t know what to do. All she knows is that she cannot go and face those stiff little bodies lying dead in their cots. She lies on the bed all day, curled into a little ball. Unable to budge. It is already dark when she hears banging on the door. It must be the helper. She still doesn’t budge but lies on her side, staring at the wall.

These are the facts that became known later at her trial.





Jelly on a Plate

I write to many

those who should

how they formed me

how each particle of jelly powder

mixed with the boiling water of me

how each whisk stirred this mixture

of solid and liquid

until the hurts and hugs

the heart-aches and happiness

dissolved and dispersed

Now who can tell the ingredients from the mixture?

Then the pouring into the mould

the mixture sets, solidifies though shaky

Who was the stirrer? Who chose the mould?

Who did the pouring?


I have been moulded

now I am firm but still trembling

Jelly on a plate


I am not the paramedic who arrives at the scene and saves your life

after you drove so recklessly

Nor am I the mountain rescue member who risks his own life to save yours when you are trapped on a ledge

after following an unused path

I am not the nurse who wipes your fevered brow bringing the glass of water up to your parched lips

after you neglected to take anti-malaria pills

Nor am I the fire-fighter who bursts through the flames inhaling smoke and hauling you out

after you left candles burning in every room

I am the driftwood that floats past as you struggle to keep afloat

I am the one you stop to ask for directions when you are lost

I am the fire extinguisher you installed in the passage

I am the calm after your storm

I support you

If you want me

Every Little Helps – Build Hope

house in Molweni

Please consider donating a small amount to this wonderful cause. Especially people from outside South Africa as the exchange rate is helpful. For $10 – a mere 2 cups of coffee, you could make a big difference to Thembi and her family’s life. She is a wonderful caring mother. It is easy to donate through PayPal and from little amounts, big amounts grow. So please pause, stop scrolling and click. Thanks for your support for this worthy cause.

Click on this link to donate and read more about Thembi and her family


Blocks collected so far

Thembi and Family

We are hoping to get an inside toilet and another room built before the summer rains

If you are not in a position to give yourself, please share this with your friends.




Seeds of Tomorrow – KwaMashu Bird Club

Meet Nomusa Mkhungo and her associate, Fi Mntungwa. Nomusa works for an NGO focussing on Leadership as well as Environmental Issues and Biodiversity. She had the idea of starting a bird club for teenagers in KwaMashu with the dual purpose of sharing her love of birds and engendering an interest in young people, hence the name, Seeds of Tomorrow.

IMG_1926 (2)

I began chatting to her at a bird call course that we both attended at Paradise Valley to which she had also brought a whole bunch of keen youngsters. She needed someone to assist her in taking the club on an outing which I was thrilled to be able to do. Initiatives like this need to be supported and encouraged.

We arranged an outing in Springside Nature Reserve, Hillcrest.


Most of these young girls, ranging in age from 13 to 21, attend Nqabakazulu Comprehensive High School in KwaMashu. They were interested and engaged. Very keen. They also knew exactly how to conduct themselves in a nature reserve. This is thanks to Nomusa. I wondered how they knew so many bird names as they haven’t been on many outings. They told me that Nomusa holds workshops and teaches them about birds. It was fun for them to apply their knowledge in the outdoors.


I discovered that they only have 3 pairs of binoculars which they share amongst themselves. There are 28 in the club but they only take 10 at a time in outings, to keep them manageable. I managed to rustle up funds to get them 3 more pairs of binos and an old pair that we no longer use, bringing them to 7 pairs. This meant more of them could get a proper look at the birds. If we could somehow get them another 3 pairs that would be wonderful. The binoculars have been donated to the club so that if people come and go, the binoculars will not go with them.

trying the binos

Trying out the binoculars

miss nyoni on the right

I named Bongiwe (in the red top) Ms Nyoni as she wants to be an ornithologist

We heard a Black-collared Barbet; they had all heard it before without knowing what it was. Then we saw it and it was lovely to see the excitement as they put the bird together with its call.



Girls feeling shy

The club has 3 Sasol Field Guides and every time we saw a bird, they all wanted to see it in the book; Nomusa’s good training paying off again. We had an interesting discussion regarding a Female Amethyst which we originally thought was an Olive Sunbird.


Afterwards we had refreshments and a bird quiz. I played calls from my Roberts app and the first to get a call right, received a Bird of the Year brooch which for 2016 is the Sociable Weaver link below). It was good fun and I look forward to another outing with the Seeds of Tomorrow.



The racial signs were removed but the monster lives




This is the daily lived reality of too many black people in our country. If I want to be kind, maybe this woman was having a bad day and at least her daughter realised she was out of line. Bad day or not, I believe us white people who have so much to answer for, need to be asking ourselves why our default position is being critical and judgemental of others based on their race. That is, being racist. We who are lucky enough to continue our lives with very little change to our lifestyles. Why are we not more conciliatory, more understanding, more prepared to self-examine than to accuse?

How do black people continue being so patient? The response of Mpumelelo is measured and mature. He is still able to acknowledge that not all whites are like this, that sometime black people give white people an excuse for racism because of incompetence. I do not agree with this last point at all though. Why should black people have to even worry about giving an excuse to white people? yes, we want excellence but for the sake of excellence. Not to prove themselves to white people. No! to prove themselves  to themselves.

If white people encounter incompetence in other whites, do they suddenly became racist towards white people? No! they complain about incompetence.

In my view, if the attitudes of black people do harden towards whites, it will be the fault of the many white people who still behave this way. Even in my morning paper, The Mercury,  they are given too much airtime.

I do not relate to these people but I feel compelled to apologise for their behaviour much as Zuma had to apologise to the Mocambicans for the behaviour of some of our people.

I am sorry.