She won gold for SA, but now disabled ex-Springbok faces losing her home
The first black Springbok athlete has been told she will be booted from the rondavel she has lived in for more than 40 years
Evelyn Nompululu, 58, who made headlines in the 1970s for being the first disabled black woman athlete to represent SA, today fears she will be kicked out of her home.
The wheelchair-bound former Springbok has been living in a rondavel, outside the Nompumelelo Hospital in Peddie in the Eastern Cape, for more than 40 years. And even though it has no electricity, running water or a toilet for disabled people, Nompululu would rather stay there than be homeless.
“We have been here for a long time, since we were teenagers. I competed in the Games while I was staying here and won medals for this country. But today I had to worry that I would be thrown out into the streets. These people [staff] say these belong to them and we need to find our own houses,” she told Times Select.
Nompululu has not been told officially that she will be evicted, but she says hospital staff have made it clear that her days there are numbered.
The rondavel she’s occupying was initially built to house patients and elderly people in the area as part of the then Ciskei homeland’s health programmes. There are about 100 such rondavels.
Nompululu has been told by Lilitha nursing college trainee students that interns and health employees will soon move into the rondavels.
“I represented this country as the first black Springbok athlete. Nothing changed for me; instead I am suffering. We need a government who will look at our case and realise that no disabled person can live like this. We are struggling to even have access to proper toilets.”
At the age of 16 she competed in events including racing, javelin, shot-put and table tennis, winning gold medals for her country.
Having polio, she was confined to a wheelchair from age of 10.
She left her parents’ home in the 1970s to stay at the hospital.
She was first admitted at the hospital for physiotherapy sessions in 1968. She left in 1982 and returned in 1993.
“I’ve got theology studies and I was preaching across the country, but I had to retire back here. Today I am destitute, hungry, having nothing despite the disability grant. I’ve got nothing I can call home.”
Nompululu lives with Zandisile Dweba, 62, and Nomhle Jim, who are also wheelchair-bound.
“We’ve started applying for houses in 2006 when the government started building RDP houses in Ngqushwa local municipality. Many of the people have died waiting for such housing provision,” said Dweba.
Jim added: “By the look of things we are going to be thrown out of these hospital rondavels and we can see the signs. Life is difficult for us.”
Eastern Cape health spokesperson Lwandile Sicwetsha said the rondavels belonged to the public works department and not the Nompumelelo hospital.
“Nobody told them to leave the residence and the reason for their long stay is that their homes are not conducive for them to stay because of their disability,” said Sicwetsha.
Social workers visited the three to assess their situation. Eastern Cape social development spokesperson Gcobani Maswana said: “An integrated plan is needed to help them. This is also a multidiscipline matter where a number of departments need to work together.”
Local community activist Petros Majola said the situation was far from ideal.
“They are not getting help from government other than a disability grant which they received monthly. The touching part is that their challenges are common as they all ask for RDP houses so that they live like normal human beings as opposed to the current situation where they spend their life in these rondavels,” said Majola.