“Life is never easy in the informal settlement,” said Mamsie Martha Zulu. The 82-year old gogo lives in a shack with no family in the informal settlement of Emalahleni, situated between Nancefield hostel and Nancefield train station in Klipspruit Soweto.




Until recently, Mamsie has been working as a domestic worker and has never owned a house. She depends on her pension money for survival, yet the money quickly dries up on expenses such as groceries, paraffin, transport and medication for her arthritis and high blood pressure.

With the help of a committee member Nopi Masege, Martha gets by sometimes. Nopi ensures that Martha takes her medication and survives on a daily basis as an old woman.


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“I’m helping Mamsie because it is not safe for an old woman to stay alone in a shack,” Nopi stated when talking about her passion for the elderly.

“There is no electricity, most people here are unemployed and the crime rate is extremely high in informal settlements,” Nopi then mentioned in closing, a worried look in her eyes.



During her spare time, Mamsie enjoys reading when a good samaritan in the neighbourhood buys her a newspaper.


In 2011, she applied for an RDP house and has now given up hope on actually getting the house. It is a bitter pill to swallow when people who applied after her are allocated with houses before her. Mamsie’s only wish now is to move in to an old age home or get a decent house where she will see out her years in comfort.

Written by: Zwelizwe Ndlhovu

Photographs by: Zwelizwe Ndlhovu

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