The three brothers aged 18, 16 and 11 are living in dire conditions in an old shack full of holes. They are without food or electricity and the only proper meal they get each day is from the feeding scheme at their school. The community has been unable to help them.

Thabo Phukuntsi (18), who is the oldest of the siblings, said “life is very difficult for us as we do not even have a proper place to sleep. It feels like the shack we are sharing might collapse anytime. Almost always we go to bed hungry as the only food we get is at school. It was better last year when our mom who was working as a domestic worker in Pretoria was here. But now we have no one to look after us.”

He said his mother had been trying to get their family an RDP house.

“Now things are getting worse each day. I sometimes envy some children who go to school with a proper uniform, shoes and lunch money. But I always find comfort in that only God knows what the future holds for us,” said Phukuntsi.


The grade 11 learner at Ligege Secondary School in Duthuni believes that education is the family’s only way out of poverty.

“My mother is currently in Johannesburg being looked after by her younger sister. I just hope that one day she will get better. But for us the only things we need to focus on is school and getting educated so that we will be able to be independent adults and look after ourselves,” he said.

The situation has started to improve slightly after a young woman, Fhumulani Managa from Tshisaulu village outside Thohoyandou, heard of the brothers’ plight.

She is currently in the process of establishing an organisation to help less fortunate people and has started helping the Phukuntsi brothers. She has already bought them food, school uniforms and blankets.

Managa said that she is saddened that the Duthuni community has failed to help the Phukuntsi brothers, despite knowing about their situation for years.

“It pains me when I see innocent children suffering while the community keeps quiet and do nothing to help them. I was very hurt when I saw where these kids are staying without food, blankets, electricity and clothes. The shack where they are staying is very bad and not safe,” she said.

“No one chooses to be born in poverty. How can I be happy knowing that somewhere out there, young children are sleeping on empty stomachs? I will do anything I can to make sure that they get help,” she said.

Since Managa started helping the family, social workers have been visiting them regularly in hope of finding a solution to their dire situation. Managa has been sharing the plight of the three siblings on social media in hopes of raising funds to help the poor brothers.

An edited version of this story was published by The Star print edition.