I am no journalist or writer but the harsh reality of life in this country is distressing and I cannot think of any other way to vent my anger, frustration and disgust.
Our country is prospering. It’s President does not want bad news to be published. He only wants sunshine journalism relating to the growing wealth (by extreme leaps and bounds) of the ‘middle class’. Especially those employed by parastatals or civil servants or, shall I rather say, where exorbitant salaries are paid for by the taxpayer. He obviously chooses NOT TO KNOW about the plight of those who should be happy with a running tap and a naked flash bulb that works only when there are a few cents spare to pay the meager R250 monthly rent behind someone else’s shack.
I needed some trees trimmed and found the quotes beyond my budget and decided to buy my own chain saw to do it myself. I did not even know how to assemble the machine and thought I’ll find help on the internet. There was one warning after the other of the dangers of using a chainsaw. One of the most dangerous pieces of equipment one can use.
I mentioned my plight to a friend who then promptly said that he knew a jobless person who is certified to operate a chainsaw and promptly arranged to fetch him the following morning and dropped him off at my house. Mphilo turned out to be a 28 year old from KZN who started cutting and sawing and did the job perfectly in two days.
Mphilo arrived with ALL his papers and I could see that he had passed Grade 11 with Maths, Science and Biology. He also had a Learners Driver’s license which will expire mid-Sep. I could not let him leave with no certainty of an income for who knows how long. After chatting to him, we decided that we, with the help of my gardener on his off-days, will build the patio with pergola that I have always wanted. Yes, Mphilo knew all about concrete casting and had also trained as a carpenter. What more could I need.
We had some glorious working hours together, the three of us. The job is nearing completion and I am having nightmares as to what Mphilo will be doing to earn an honest living since I cannot afford to employ him more than maybe two days in a month. I then heard of a company which do bush clearing contract work (for parastatals) and need chainsaw operators. I phoned them and on my high recommendation of Mphilo, agreed to grant him an interview. We were excited and went to meet the prospective new employers who wanted him to start tomorrow (Saturday). Fortunately he still had work to be done at my place and they agreed that he would start on Monday.
Before we left, they asked what salary Mphilo was expecting. I was on the verge of saying ‘Not less than …..” when Mphilo said ‘What are you paying the other guys?” The answer came: R105 per day and if he proves himself after three months, it will be increased to the princely sum of R110 per day!! I got chicken flesh and felt like grabbing Mphilo and running!
Furthermore! He must be prepared to be sent to various areas where he could be based for two months or more at a time. I then asked whether the company provides them with food and accommodation. No no, they get R10 a day extra and the ‘team’ then clubs together to rent a room somewhere in a local township. The company will provide tents if they’re in remote areas. No food though.
Furthermore, they report for duty at 6 am, transport leaves at 6.15 and I am sure they won’t be back until 6 pm. He was also warned that the work is extremely dangerous as they work around high voltage power lines where over hanging trees have to be felled. All for R105 per day!
This is the harsh reality of life in South Africa!! How can I have hope or sleep well when I know that this is happening? This young man will never be able to own any form of transport needless to even think of owning his own shack.
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