A beggar with a cause

Tshegofatso fills up the potholes everyday without fail. Photo: Thato Mahlangu.
Tshegofatso fills up the potholes everyday without fail. Photo: Thato Mahlangu.

Thato Mahlangu

A young Soshanguve man has taken to filling up potholes along Ruth First and the M17 roads with sand to earn some money.

Tshegofatso Mathahathe (21) said this was a way for him to beg without expecting to be handed things for free.

“I am begging, I am begging for money to help feed my siblings. I am doing something for the money I get here,” he said.

He said he makes about R80 to R100 a day depending on the weather.

Asked about the response of motorists, he said most of them appreciate that he was doing something for the money they gave him and he was helping them too.

A policeman, who asked not to be named, said:”What Tshegofatso does here is really amazing as he helps us to move easily without any hurdles, he should be given a tender to repair these potholes.”

The officer said he always passed by on his way home and he never missed Mathahathe, adding that he gaves the man a few rand to say thank you.

Mathahathe collects the sand in old buckets and uses an old broom to fill up the potholes.

Nyaope claimed the life Mathahathe was dreaming about. He wanted to become a medical student at Sefako Makgatho Health Sciences University and a professional footballer.

His mother Lettie Mathahathe said: “He was doing exceptionally well in high school. I thought he would become a doctor one day. Like all parents I had big dreams for him.”

Mathahathe quit school because of a lack of money.

“It is sad to see your child quit school because you cannot provide for them. He always complained about wearing torn shoes or about his school fees being due,” said Lettie.

Mathahathe’s dreams died in 2010 when he was introduced to the street drug Nyaope by a friend, who is still an addict.

“I managed to get some help by getting odd jobs because I wanted to help my mother, so I had to do something more constructive with my time that would also help me keep clean from drugs,” said Mathahathe.

At first, he said, it was hard to stay clean because getting the drugs out of one’s system required lots of food, a necessity he could not afford.

“I thought I could not do it but I persevered and kept on working here filling up the streets with sand all day and that kept me from thinking about the drug,” he said.

Though he is not fully recovered, he said he no longer smokednyaope but cigarettes instead.

“Cigarettes are addictive but it is the only way to replace nyaope that I used to smoke heavily,”

Lettie wanted her son to get back to school and finish matric.

“My wish is for him to focus on his studies and not worry about the situation at home. He can do great for himself.”

Mathahathe said he had been free nyaope for the past two years and was now looking for a job to pay for his studies and to help his struggling mother.

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