Sabusisaw Msibis

Sabusiswa Msibi
(Undergraduate student, Faculty of Humanities)

Articles in the UDHR

  • Article 4:
    No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms.
  • Article 22: 
    Everyone, as a member of society, has the right to social security and is entitled to realization, through national effort and international co-operation and in accordance with the organization and resources of each State, of the economic, social and cultural rights indispensable for his dignity and the free development of his personality.
  • Article 25: 
  • (1) Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.
    (2) Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance. All children, whether born in or out of wedlock, shall enjoy the same social protection.
    Article 26: 
    (1) Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory. Technical and professional education shall be made generally available and higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit.
    (2) Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It shall promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups, and shall further the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of peace.
    (3) Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children.

Description of entry:
This short story illustrates the gross realities that impoverished children face on the streets of South Africa through fiction. It particularly highlights the problem of street beggars renting children to evoke sympathy from motorists in order to get them to donate money. The fact that these children are kept from attending schools, are forced to work on the streets and are rented like commodities. 

Gravel in the Sole

Luyanda gently placed the cheese flavoured maize chip on the floor several centimetres away
from the blue-grey bird. She leaned her head back so that it touched the pole behind her and
shoved a chip into her mouth. She tilted her head back down at the sound of her feathered
friend flapping hurriedly away with the chip secured in its beak.

Mama’s hand was like that big claw thing inside the machine with all the toys that she would
see in the small shopping centre across the road. It lifted her up from the back of her shirt
and secured her to mama’s side. She rested her head on mama’s shoulder once she nudged
it down. She glanced down at the cars as mama weaved in between them, visibly holding out
an old tin can in front of her. As usual, some of the drivers took pity on them and opened a
closed fist of coins over the mouth of the tin; others pretended that they did not see them
and waited anxiously for the green light. Sometimes, if she was lucky, someone would hand
Luyanda a sweet or a packet of chips, like the one she held tightly to her.

As the light went green, and some drivers became noticeably relaxed, the claw from the
machine released her back down to the spot it fished her from- just like the real one did with
the toys when she would watch other kids play with it.

She sucked her fingers once her last chip had been eaten then sat agitatedly in mama’s
shadow. Her body had become weak and tired, nearly tipping her over a few times, but by
some external force- perhaps the heat from the sun, perhaps the sound of cars speeding by,
perhaps mama’s claw like hand picking her up at every red light- she never manged to close
her eyes long enough to fall asleep.


“Where have you been? It’s almost five o’clock.” Agnes demanded as she took Luyanda from
her hands.

“Mxm, relax, I’m here. It’s been a slow day today so I wanted to stay longer to get more
money. But she’s here so it’s fine,” Lindo breathed out with a roll of her eyes.

Agnes gently placed Luyanda on the double mattress islanded in the small room.

“Where’s my money?”

For an unnecessarily long stretch of time, Lindo fished out a R20 note from her bra and
handed it to an agitated Agnes.

She inspected the note like an owner of a pawn shop would inspect a diamond that some
unlucky soul was looking to sell. “Does she still call you mama?”

“She calls every woman mama if she doesn’t know their name.”

Agnes let out a quick, dry laugh. “She doesn’t call me that.”

Lindo folded her arms and raised an eyebrow in an attempt to fain interest. “Ironic. What
does she call you then?”

There was silence as Agnes placed the note securely in her back pocket. “Nothing.”


Sometime after Lindo had left, Agnes prepared Luyana and herself for bed. In the background,
the small television placed on the too small table was reporting a story about seventeen year
old Pakistani girl receiving a Nobel Peace Prize- Malala Yousafzai, it said her name was. Such
story did not interest Agnes in the slightest. She had not seen it, but when she took one of
Luyanda’s shoes off, a piece of gravel had fallen out from inside. It had left a clear indentation
in the sole of her foot. And in this way, and yet another, she carried with her a deep scar that
was formed, at a young age, by the rough South African streets.

pdfDownload: Gravel in the Sole by Sabusiswa Msibi



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