My vreugdes en frustrasies


Mother: “I had to carry him; he is my son”

Photo: Yamkela Ntshongwana

Sometimes the strength of motherhood is greater than natural laws. 

Barbara Kingsolver

An Eastern Cape mother has been carrying her disabled son on her back for 23 years. Now at last he has a wheelchair

Good Samaritan comes to the rescue

By Yamkela Ntshongwana

1 October 2018

Photo of three people
Masibulele Simbuku with his grandfather Thobile Zwayi and his mother Zoliswa Simbuku. Photo: Yamkela Ntshongwana

For the past 23 years, Zoliswa Simbuku from Vezinyawo in Cofimvaba has carried her son Masibulele on her back. If she couldn’t carry him, she had to pay for special transport, to take him to hospital for instance.

Masibulele Simbuku cannot walk or talk following an illness in childhood.

His mother is unemployed and could not afford a wheelchair. She has not had any contact with his father since 2001. The family rely on Masibulele’s disability grant of R1,600 a month.

Now at last he has a wheelchair, thanks to Makaya Kambi, founder and director of the Cofimvaba Advice Office.

Kambi said he saw Zoliswa carrying Masibulele in town a few months ago.

At first he thought Zoliswa was carrying a drunken man and was reluctant to help.

“I decided to stop anyway because I felt sorry for the mother,” he said.

He says he walked back to them and when he found that the young man was not drunk but disabled, he helped Zoliswa to carry Masibulele back to his car to find out more about his condition.

“I was shocked and sad at the same time. This woman has been carrying her son on her back since he was born. I felt I must help this poor mother and her son,” Kambi said.

Kambi founded the Cofimvaba Advice office in 2016, when he took early retirement from the army. The office helps people with social issues and legal matters and helps people with transport when they need to go to government offices outside Cofimvaba. The office is registered as a non-profit organisation with the Department of Social Development.

Kambi said because Cofimvaba is a small town sometimes people have to go to Queenstown or Ngcobo.

“In rural areas most people do not know their rights, especially older people. When they come to us we refer their cases to the right offices. Most cases we deal with are for people who are given the wrong identification books – for instance some are females but the ID comes back saying they are males. Some complain about being given the wrong ID numbers, maybe their date of birth is written incorrectly,” he said.

Zoliswa said her family was very grateful for Masibulele’s wheelchair.

“For the past 23 years I used to carry him on my back. It was easy when he was young but as he grew older he was becoming heavier each year. But I had to carry him; he is my son.”

The mother of three said she had been waiting for a wheelchair from the Department of Health for years.

“I used to have stress every time I had to take him to the hospital or social development because I had to carry him on my back, heavy as he is. Sometimes I would go and ask my father to help me carry him. I always suffer back pain,” said the mother.

“That is all in the past now. I will be able to push him around on his wheelchair,” she said. “I never knew this day would come. I am happy beyond words.”

When GroundUp visited Masibulele was rolling up and down the yard in his new chair.

Published originally on GroundUp

© 2018 GroundUp.
This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

You may republish this article, so long as you credit the authors and GroundUp, and do not change the text. Please include a link back to the original article.

Follow Dis Ekke

Please find information about the coronavirus here SA Coronavirus South African Resource Portal


  1. Armoede is ‘n wrede ding, maar as dit nie vir armoede was nie, was daar nie omgee-mense/organisasies soos in hierdie verhaal nie – ons is nog nie in die hemel nie, en soos Jesus self gesê het die armes sal altyd met ons wees in hierdie wereld en daarom het ons almal ‘n maatskaplike plig om na mekaar om te sien – tot die nuwe wereld kom. Is maar wat ek glo en ek is dalk nie reg nie – maar dit is my glo 🙂

    • Comment by post author


      Wat my getref het was die krag van hierdie ma om elke keer wanneer dit nodig was, haar seun op te tel en te dra. Ek weet nie of ek sterk genoeg sou wees (geestelik) om elke dag so te leef nie.

  2. Wow! How fortunate we are … it is stories such as these that make us realise it. Thank you for sharing.

  3. I had to carry him, he is my son… Toe ek die opskrif lees, toe knik ek my kop klaar. ń Ma en haar kind, dis wat ons doen. Wat ń treffende verhaal, Hester.

  4. Sjoe ek stem saam dis ‘n treffende verhaal. Voorwaar ‘n geestelike sterk ma.

  5. Daardie foto gryp my aan die hart.

  6. Terribly sad, stories like these are upsetting because I have the ability to buy that chair for the lady……………. here in the West the NHS would provide a wheelchair HOWEVER I also know even in England there will be very similar cases of people in need. Something to bare in mind next time I pay £4.90 for a Costa coffee.

    • Comment by post author


      This is what gets to me Andrew, that the leaders and the prosperous communities in this country just carry on with their lives, heedless of the dire circumstances in which the poor live. This is especially true in the rural regions.

  7. Wat ‘n les en verhaal

    • Comment by post author


      Ja dit is nè? Mense (ek) dink selde indien ooit bewustelik aan sulke mense se omstandighede en dis goed dat ons so nou en dan herinner word.

  8. Hoe is het mogelijk dat moeder dit heeft kunnen volhouden. Wat zijn wij gezegend met alle hulpmiddelen.