Pretoria- When Ivy Buziwe Ngaleka woke up at five in the morning on the morning of September 13, 2009, and hitch-hiked to Matatiele with only R20 in her pocket, her only hope was to meet President Jacob Zuma at the North End Stadium.
The Mount Frere resident has faced many hardships since her husband, a King Sabata Dalindyebo Local Municipality employee, passed away in 2006.
And although she had been pushed from pillar to post while trying to access his pension, she was never deterred. All she wanted was to give her husband a dignified burial.
"I lived in Umtata with my husband for over 20 years," she said. "He had asthma and had been on treatment, but the older he got, the worse his condition got." He passed away in 2006.
"He had written a will indicating his wishes, but when I tried to access his pension at the municipality to ensure that he received a dignified burial, life became difficult and I was shoved from pillar to post," she said.
Ngaleka, who had all the necessary documents to claim her husband's pension, was advised to approach the master of the high court.
"A letter was written and I went to the municipality, but I was then told that I had forged my husband's signature. His signature was later taken for verification," she said.
"He was finally buried after the courts intervened, but the rest of the monies due to my family and I was never released and at that point I didn't care about it. All I had ever wanted was to bury my husband," she cried.
While watching television on the evening of September 12, she heard that Zuma would be at a stadium in Matatiele. The next morning, she got up, said a little prayer and made her way to the stadium with only R20 in her pocket to get there.
When she arrived at the local municipal offices with the hope of meeting Zuma in person, she was denied access by police. A policeman, who had seen Ngaleka waiting at the gates, approached her and told her to go to the local police station where she would get help.
"I didn't even know if I'd meet the president, but I woke up that morning determined to tell him my story," said Ngaleka. "When I arrived where he was, I was told I couldn't see him. I was devastated. But like everybody else at the event, I sat down and listened. That is when I heard the number for the presidential hotline," she added.
Upon hearing her story, a policeman had been kind enough to give her R20 to go back home that evening and like clock work, she woke up at the crack of dawn the next morning and waited for the time that she would call the hotline.
She said: "I was so happy to get through and the person on the other end of the line asked: "Do you know who you're speaking to?" and I said: "No". He said: "It's the president" And I said: "Well, that's exactly the person I wanted to speak to."
Ngaleka said she had lost hope that she would ever receive help and believes that her constant prayers helped her get through to the presidential hotline. And, a bonus indeed that she was its first caller.
"I was extremely happy. I never believed that I would get through to the hotline. And I had lost hope that I would every get any help, but my prayers were answered," she says tearfully.
Today, the 51-year-old mother of three, who attended the State of the Nation Address earlier this month, has received all monies due to her.
"The fact that I was the first person to get through to the hotline was amazing in itself. But getting assistance after I had lost hope has given me and my family hope. I am truly grateful to everyone that was of assistance. I am blessed.