Rachel wept as they buried her 6 year old daughter. Who would have known that going to school would mean death for her bright eyed child? Who knew that she would come home barely able to walk, continuous diarrhoea a deadly torrent down her legs. They buried her frail body wrapped in a plastic bag thrust into a cheap coffin, purchased by the dozen by the do-gooder aid agencies. That day they buried 30 men and women. Was it supposed to be consolation that 600 women, men and children had also lost their lives to this plague? Rachel only knew that her child, flesh of her flesh, blood of her blood was gone.
Rachel wept when she buried her sister. When Leah’s husband left to look for work in South Africa, Leah was joyful. Maybe the poverty that had dogged their family since the factory closed would now be a thing of the past. Maybe now their three children could go to school and go to bed at night with a full belly. Leah waited and waited for the money to come. The money did not come. She heard that he was living with another woman in Johannesburg. Then one day he appeared in the gloom of twilight. You could see the jut of his collar bones through the thin shirt he was wearing. He did not look like the man who had left home back in 1999 when the troubles in the country really started. He lived on and on for two more years. And Leah looked after him. He was still her husband after all. She sold all their meagre possessions to get him the medicines that he needed. Still he died. All Leah had left was poverty. And AIDS. Rachel thinks it is the hopelessness and despair that finally got Leah. Who wouldn’t despair if they were forced to stand at the street corner, selling their body in order to feed three hungry mouths? Now Rachel weeps when she looks at her nieces. What future for them female, poor and orphaned? She wonders and worries; are they also destined for the streets?