this is a fairly lengthy account, and there is some question, buried middling deep, as to its integrity. it is a curious read, all the same.
ITEKI – The woman who caused a stir when a South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) programme showed her eating cow dung has said there is nothing wrong with it.
The HIV-positive widow, 60-year old Sofie Magagula, said it was no joke that she eats cow dung. This is despite having chickens.
She is aware of the scorn that will be directed at her but she maintains that, although she is not proud of being poor and struggles to get a meal, she fails to understand why she should have kept her situation a secret.
She said the programme told her personal story, which she would have told to anyone if she had been asked.
Magagula demonstrated during the interview how she prepares and eats the cow dung.
Magagula was featured on Cutting Edge, a South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) programme, on Thursday last week, eating cow dung.
“People should not view what I did to be a comic stunt. That is my story, my predicament, which I narrated to those people.
“I am aware that people in my community are now referring to me as ‘the cow dung woman’; some even say I should have not mentioned that I eat cow dung. I am a poor 60-year-old woman, a widow. I have eaten cow dung before as a cure for stomach ache, so I have no problem with it.
“When I resort to eating cow dung, it is usually because I have nothing else to eat, which happens to be often because I don’t have the alternatives that can only be bought with money,” Magagula explained.
She said eating all her chickens would not a practical solution because she would finish doing so within a week.
Following the airing of the programme the Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Health, Dr. Steven Shongwe, was quoted saying he suspects that the scenes of the interview were staged.
Dr Shongwe also wondered why the woman was not eating the chickens, which were spotted in the background during the televised interview.
The widow said the suggestion that she eat the few chickens she has is not a lasting solution.
She said she sells the birds occasionally to raise money to buy a sack of umhhungu (the pellets that are left during the milling of maize), which retail at E10.
“It is true I have chickens, as you can see, but how many days would it take me to finish them and totally dash my chance of occasionally making money to buy chaff and also for bus fare to fetch my medication from Siteki?
“It should be understood that I eat the cow dung out of my own choice. I could be eating the chaff like the rest of my family, but I fall seriously ill because my body cannot handle that. I am a weak individual, unlike my children who can eat it and not fall sick,” she said.
Ludzidzini acting governor TV Mtetwa said cow dung, as far as he recalls, was a remedy for people who had drank poison to clear the stomachs.
I am not aware of anything else that it was used for, but I know it to be given as a cure for poison. It would be made into a drink and given to that person. I am not aware that it was used to cure stomach aches or anything else,” said Mtetwa.
She wonders if neighbours would feed her?
ITEKI – Sofie Magagula has wondered if those neighbours criticising her for telling her story to the SABC would feed her if she showed up at mealtimes every day.
She insists that the SABC programme told her personal story
“I don’t know if any other people eat cow dung when they are hungry. I don’t know what these people do at their homesteads. I can only tell my story. I have no food to eat; the medication (ARVs) that I take is very strong. If I take the ARVs without a meal, I actually fall sick because the drugs are very strong.
“I am aware that residents here say I shouldn’t have said I eat the cow dung because that revelation has degraded the community that I live in.
“The question is; would they have given me meals every time I showed up at their doorsteps at meal time?” Magagula wondered.
Explaining how she prepares the cow dung, she said she collects cow dung that is “fresh” in a bowl and pours water in it. She removes the grass and stones to make it easy for her to ingest.
Eating the cow dung highlights a deeper problem in her life and, by extension, that of the entire community she lives in. A mixture of factors she listed, most of which are out of her hands, have landed her in this appalling situation.
In the family of five, no one is employed and three members of her family are also allegedly HIV-positive.
The unbearable Lowveld heat had destroyed the maize plants in a series of ploughing seasons, which meant the family has had no harvest in many seasons.
“I don’t know what fellow residents do in their homes to fill their stomachs; what I told those people is my story. It is I, Sofie Magagula, who does this thing out of desperation. I eat the cow dung, and my children eat um-hhungu, which I can’t handle in my condition,” she said.
Since the programme was aired, good Samaritans have been visiting her home, with some making donations, and a group of nurses paid her a visit to enquire about her medical condition.
She can’t be telling the truth
BABANE – Danisile Vilakati, the Nutrition ist at the Ministry of Health said it is not true that a person could eat cow dung when there are food packages for HIV /AIDS patients.
Vilakati, whose office heads the three-month old ‘Food By Prescription’ programme said it caters for malnourished people and HIV/AIDS patients.
“I don’t want to believe that this is true, as an office we took it upon ourselves to locate the said family or person using the Member of Parliament and we found that the cow dung eating was a once off incident. However, if she is an ART patient then she should be getting food packages with fortified nutrients,” explained Vilakati.
“Previously, we issued food packages to cater only for the patient, but we discovered that the family members were mostly without food so they would also eat the patient’s packages because of the general lack of food.
“So now the programme caters for everyone and it is a highly successful programme. It covers five health centres and six hospitals,” she said.
Vilakati also dismissed Sofie Magagula’s claims that she was stopped from receiving food packages after she recovered as rather confusing because her body would show that she is recovering after six months.
“That is why I prefer to dismiss this because how would she be stopped from receiving food rations in a three-month old programme when her body would only recover in six months, so when was she stopped?” quizzed Vilakati.