Orphaned at 13, she has cared for her siblings her whole adult life

The youngest was too young to know what was going on when my father died. I was only 13 years old, the oldest of four. I remember a relative coming to school to give me the news that my father had died in a car accident.

I really didn’t believe them. It didn’t hit me until I arrived home and realised that my dad was gone. 

He served as a soldier in the Zimbabwean Defence Forces, and we were very close. I remember we used to drive down to Vic Falls — I always looked forward to those trips. We even went to Mauritius. He used to spoil us and he would do anything for me. My mother was the strict one between my parents. She passed before my dad, when I was in grade five. 

We had to move in with relatives and life wasn’t the same because my siblings became my responsibility. 

They still live back at home and I send them the money I make from selling my fabric bags, potholders and place mats [in Johannesburg]. I’m here every day from 8am to 5pm — but I rest on Sunday and go to church. 

Summer days are always good for business because people want to use the tablecloths while sitting outside and having a braai, but winter is quite slow at times. But I know that God brings the customers to buy from me. 

Every day I have my siblings in my mind; I need to make sure they have everything they need for school. The great thing is that they are all very smart. The second-born will be going to varsity next year and I know that God will make a way for his education. — Edith Chikwana (33) as told to Mosibudi Ratlebjane

Mosibudi Ratlebjane is the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation social justice fellow at the Mail & Guardian.

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