Accommodation relief for Maseru woman
SOMEWHERE, deep in rural Ha Sematle in the Maseru district, lives an unemployed 57-year-old ’Malira Halafu a single mother of four whose life has followed the all-too-familiar script of many Basotho’s perennial challenges of limited financial resources and lack of decent accommodation.
Ms Halafu has a daughter Ntsoaki who works as a domestic help in South Africa and three sons, Tiisetso (34), Moitšepi (31) and Mahlakajoe (22).
Tiisetso is currently unemployed while Moitšepi has part time jobs in Maseru.
The youngest child, Mahlakajoe is in grade 11 and fortunately the Ministry of Education assists by paying his tuition fees.
Although this is a huge relief for Ms Halafu, her life is not much better as she still has to survive off a meagre quarterly social grant of M750 which is supplemented by food parcels donated by the community.
Inside the inherited shack she calls home, the light is poor as it permeates through a very small window cut out of the corrugated iron structure. The shack is badly ventilated on account of the old and dirty rags that have been stuffed to seal off gaps in order to insulate her from the biting draughts of cold air brought on by the country’s harsh and unforgiving winter season.
The door also poses a serious security threat as it does not close and lock as would be expected of any normal door.
And as if that was not enough, Ms Halafu is living with a mental illness.
Despite her smile and assurances that life is just fine in her shack, hers is a story that cannot fool anyone. At best, it is a sad coping mechanism by one who has resigned herself to accepting all the brickbats that life has hurled at her.
Everything is helter skelter inside the small shack as she has no furniture to house her belongings resulting in a situation where clothes, blankets and water buckets immediately greet the visitor in their mad competition for space which leaves no room for simple things like walking.
“At night I sleep on the floor and in the morning I wake up and carry on with my day,” she said.
It is an uncomfortable situation even for fellow villagers who said they worried about how Ms Halafu was coping.
It could have been a different scenario for Ms Halafu who had initiated the process of building a decent house but for the tragic death of her sister in a car accident in 1989. The sister was helping her financially when her life was cut short and now, an unfinished dilapidated structure which has grown worse for wear over the years remains a sad monument to the unconsummated dreams.
But this is one tale which is set for a fairytale ending after Habitat Lesotho at the instigation of the area chief and council recently resolved to build a decent two roomed house for Ms Halafu.
Habitat Lesotho is a nonprofit organisation whose mission is to provide shelter for low- income families and vulnerable groups by building simple, decent, and affordable houses.
Work on Ms Halafu’s house began on 12 June 2017 when Habitat Lesotho hosted a team of 21 students from the University of Wittenberg in the United States of America led by Dr. Scott Rosenberg.
Habitat Lesotho’s National Director ‘Mathabo Makuta recently told the Sunday Express that they “get to know about vulnerable households through chiefs and councils and with the help of volunteers, we take up these projects making sure that people get decent houses”.
“The council of Haramabanta in (Ha Sematle village) told us about Ms Halafu’s desperate need of a house and we felt the need to help,” Ms Makuta said.
Project funder, Scott Rosenberg said this was the sixth house they built in collaboration with Habitat Lesotho, adding they were very happy to make positive contributions to people’s lives.
He said he brought students to Lesotho every year and on each of those occasions they sought to build a new house for someone in need.