Since we got here Bronwen has been getting relentless calls from a man who says he has medication and a cure for the children’s burns. She has been polite, rude and even asked the volunteers to be polite and rude in his language but to no avail. Today he arrived at the ChiFi house, bringing with him a rolled up newspaper package containing the herbs to cure all. Bronwen, who has a lot of such visitors, gave him time in her busy schedule to explain and with the help of Lungisani to translate, they talked it through.
She told him she would never give the children an unknown herb, that she loved the children as her own, and would never give them something that may be poisonous. With no intention of buying the product, Bronwen asked him to eat some to prove it was not dangerous. He did so, reluctantly, holding it in the side of his mouth and balancing it on his lip. She explained that the children use aqueous cream and Bio Oil – not so much as a cure but because she felt the most important thing for the children was touch, and this a good way to massage their burns. He stayed a considerable time wandering about the grounds but needed official help to leave the premises. It’s not often in South Africa that one says thanks to the police but this time the help of two constables from Brixton SAPS avoided an altercation and vacated a seat in a busy office so that normal work could continue.
The man claimed a historical link to the charity. Apparently in 2006 he told Zanele’s parents that if they gave him the price of a cow (then worth R6000 (£300)) he would get rid of all her scars. Scars from a pot of boiling paraffin and candle wax having poured over her toddler face and body. He made it to the front page of the Daily Sun at that time as the newspaper ridiculed his claims. Zanele remains scarred and the Inyanga (healer) remains a poor unsuccessful but very persistent man.