Home and heart open to feed hungry

FIRST IN LINE: Shephard Meko, 54, of Soweto-on-Sea, receives some meat from Eunice Zingela in her Mabopha Street yard in Zwide Picture: EUGENE COETZEE
FIRST IN LINE: Shephard Meko, 54, of Soweto-on-Sea, receives some meat from Eunice Zingela in her Mabopha Street yard in Zwide

Needy masses wake up early to get in line to receive welcome sustenance from Good Samaritan Mama Zingela

They leave their homes very early each morning, rushing to be the first in what will quickly become a long queue that starts from the top of Mabopha Street in Zwide.

At a first glance, you could be forgiven for thinking the clock had been wound back several weeks. It looks like local government election day, as the long line snakes its way down the street – the scene outside many a voting station on August 3.

However, it is a long queue of grateful residents that leads into the yard of Eunice Zingela’s home.

There, the Good Samaritan and her team of volunteers serve soup and other food to more than 200 destitute people.

Mothers with babies on their backs, the frail and grannies using walking sticks are just some of those who frequent the soup kitchen of “Mama Zingela”, 66, to receive a day’s food ration from her home.

It is an inspiring initiative which the retired hospital assistant has been carrying out for no fewer than 17 years, using for the most part her own pension money.

Zingela has received occasional donations and is now also being supported by a commercial company.

“They come here as early as 6.30am just to be served first,” Zingela said.

“Some travel from as far as Veeplaas, Soweto-on-Sea and the surrounding area of Zwide township. They have absolutely nothing to sustain their daily livelihood.”

Zingela and her team of five volunteers help prepare and dish up the food, while people also receive raw meat which they take home to cook for their families.

The drive to look after the needy came in 1997, when Zingela first took in 25 children from her neighbourhood and used her pension money to support them.

It was two years later when Zingela realised there were more social ills in her community – and the soup-kitchen idea was born.

When the numbers of her children outreach- initiative increased to about 200, the Noxolo Care Centre was established, with Zingela opening the doors of her own home and operating from there.

“People often left children on our doorsteps,” Zingela said.

“The worst was in December, when mothers would leave their kids with us for a month. “When [a mother] returned, she would make up a story, saying she had been imprisoned.”

Affectionately known as “Mama Z”, Zingela goes even further in her outreach .

Her assistance is not only limited to feeding, but also ensuring those on medical treatment for chronic illnesses stick to their doctor’s instructions.

But it includes making sure they have food in their stomachs before taking medication.

Such was the extent of her work, Zingela eventually managed to secure the support of a company which supplies her with meat and soup.

However, she said given the numbers of desperate people who turn up at her door, the demand was higher than these sponsored supplies.

Soweto-on-Sea resident Siphiwo Cwesa, 54, one of the people who receives assistance from Zingela, said: “Her initiative really helps. I have nothing at home. “I am blind and unemployed. “It has been three years since I started getting food assistance from her.”

Cwesa receives vegetables, meat, soup and mealiemeal. Another resident, father-of-three Shephard Meko, 54, said: “No words can express how grateful I am towards this woman.

I have been coming here for five years. I get everything here.

“She has helped my family, which includes my wife, mom and three children.” Zingela, a mother of six, also believes in being firm and is not hesitant to scold those indulging in substance abuse.

In 2001, Zingela bought a 1 540m² property a street behind her house, which she intends to use as a centre for orphans and the elderly, but this project still requires substantial further funding.

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