Jobs and the young – Simphiwe Hlongwane’s story: Growing in stature, supporting a family

2012-07-14 11:56

Simphiwe Hlongwane was full of hope as he finished high school: “I could not wait to go to university to study a BCom. I wanted to become an internal auditor,” he says.

This dream was devastated when his bursary to the University of Johannesburg fell through.

After this blow, Simphiwe completed a two-week call centre course, but all his subsequent jobs were only in fly-by-night call-centre

“It was frustrating not working because I enjoy getting up every day and having something to do and to learn,” he says.

He bought the Workplace every Monday and Wednesday to look for work.

His grandmother, Rebecca Hlongwane, a former nurse now living off a government pension that she splits among her 16 grandchildren, gave him R100 a week to spend on copying, faxing and emailing his CV.

“Eventually I got discouraged and didn’t want to apply any more.” Simpihiwe found that the cost of constant rejection outweighed the small gain that came from temporary work.

“I had depression and frustration in my life, and eventually chose to spend that money on a decent meal.”

Simphiwe was used to ups and downs growing up in a single-parent household headed by his mother Nonhlanhla Hlongwane, currently employed as a key accounts assistant at Sunpac.

In 1996 she applied for RDP housing. The subsidy was approved but the house was never built.

Simphiwe, his mother and younger brother were forced to move in with a grandparent in Soweto.

Eventually, in 2005, they had enough money saved to rent their own townhouse in Weltevreden Park and they bought their own cars.

But the recession in 2008 left Nonhlanhla without a job and everything fell apart – it was back to Soweto for them once again.

Simphiwe says that his life of difficulty made him insecure and drained his confidence. But after 10 months of finally being permanently employed, Simphiwe has found his voice.

He says he talks to everyone he meets, and it’s because of the pride he feels at being able to provide for his family, who now all live together in Soweto.

Settled in their own home, it is easy to see how happy the family is and how empowered Simphiwe feels.

He also contributes to the support of his granny, who lives in her own home.

Nonhlanhla says: “He is responsible for us and even donates to family functions and lunches.”
Simphiwe has bought himself a car, which he uses to drive his mother and granny to the shops for groceries.

This simple luxury saves Nonhlanhla and Rebecca money, as they can do one bulk shop and don’t have to go back and forth on foot to more expensive convenience stores.

“Simphiwe was very excited about the car. He also gives us lifts at night when it is unsafe to walk,” says Rebecca.

The foundation and start in life has given Simphiwe has allowed him to overcome his insecurities and successfully navigate the challenging role of being in a sales environment where, together with his team, he always meets targets and makes good commission.

Simphiwe’s goals are now to allow himself to live for another two years at home, further establishing his career before buying his own house, where he hopes his whole family can come together for gatherings and enjoy life.

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