Young, jobless and desperate – Down and out in the land of plenty

2012-06-09 12:33

Diepsloot lies in the centre of Gauteng’s economic heartland.

To the east lies Midrand, land of office parks, corporate headquarters and call centres.

To the south lies Sandton, Fourways and Randburg – retail heaven and home to the JSE.

Pretoria, to the north, is home to government and the civil service.

Surrounded by wealth, the township, which is home to more than 200 000 people, according to the City of Joburg, has an estimated 75% unemployment rate.

City Press took a walk down Tlou, Buffalo, Mgababa, Makhado and Pitsi streets in Extension 2 where most youngsters survive on their grandparents’ pension money, spend their days sending out CVs and dream of the jobs that could haul them out of poverty.

Christina Mosito (22) lives in a back-yard room in Tlou Street with her mother, a teacher.

Although she has a diploma in travel and tourism obtained from a Further Education and Training college, she has been unable to qualify because she requires in-service training.

Many of her former classmates are in a similar position.

“Most of the jobs I see want experience,” says Mosito.

“I have applied at Unisa to further my studies. I want to do a diploma in tourism. I hope it will increase my chances of getting employed.”

In the meantime, she is looking for temporary employment to help pay for her studies.

“I’m up for anything, even restaurant work. I want to do something because sitting here at home is not doing anything for me.”

Like many of her neighbours, Mosito has not given up hope.

While some residents are at work, Diepsloot’s houses – the low-cost government homes and shacks –
are full of life.

On a typical midweek day, the streets teem with youth, aged between 18 and 30, who are neither studying nor working.

Life in Tlou Street and adjoining streets is much like it is elsewhere in the township.

Across the street from Mosito’s house lives 23-year-old Khumbudzo Mulaudzi, who is also battling to find a steady job.

He dreams of becoming a traffic officer.

But for the past two years, Mulaudzi has been buying daily newspapers twice a week so he can peruse them for advertisements for any job he can find.

“I put in as many applications as I can. I have lost count of how many applications I have sent out, but they never call me. I am still applying, but there are no posts coming up. I am looking for any job,” he says.

Believing there would be more opportunities for him in Johannesburg, Mulaudzi came to Diepsloot in 2008 after completing Grade 12 at a village outside Machado in Limpopo.

He spent the entire 2009 doing short courses in policing, which he paid for with his meagre earnings as a part-time taxi driver on weekends.

His uncle sends him cash to cover the rent for his back-yard shack.

Mulaudzi remains hopeful.

He has also considered setting up a nursery as he has knowledge of growing plants.

“I am planning to get a loan to set up a business. But it is not easy to get a loan. I can’t start a business without start-up capital,” he adds, throwing his hands in the air.

Other youngsters have resorted to using whatever skills they have to make a living while eyeing “better paying jobs”.

One of them is Themba Mjuau (25), who lives 10 houses away from Mosito in Tlou Street.

Mjuau, a self-taught mechanic, lost his job a few weeks ago.

He makes a hand-to-mouth living fixing cars from his home, or at the homes of his clients.

After he failed Grade 12 in 2005, Mjuau was lucky enough to secure an apprenticeship as an electrician and pipe fitter in Kempton Park, Ekurhuleni.

He then found a job as a driver in Edenvale, where he worked until a few weeks ago.

He dreams of helping his mother, who brought him up alone.

“I wanted to help her build our house,” he says, pointing at the incomplete structure.

“I check newspapers and the internet, and talk to people I know. If I don’t get a job, I don’t know what I will do. At the moment I am doing motor mechanics and if it’s bad I’ll stick with this.”

Mjuau worries that the government is not doing enough to address chronic youth unemployment.

He believes that the state could do more by incentivising corporations to take on apprentices and paying them stipends, adding that the state only cares about those who are educated.

Other Diepsloot youths agree with Mjuau, saying that internships in government and the private sector favour young people who have university degrees at the expense of those who do not.

But Dikgang Mokoena, who also lives on Tlou Street, is unemployed despite holding a national diploma
in chemical engineering from the University of Johannesburg. Education hasn’t given him an edge.

After battling since 2005 to find employment in engineering, Mokoena eventually settled for a job as a warehouse labourer in the north of Johannesburg.

“I have been applying for in-service training.

Even with my qualification, I can’t graduate without in-service training. I have had five interviews and they are either unsuccessful or there are no responses.”

Other youngsters have basically given up looking for employment, but decided to follow their dreams anyway.

Thabo Mokoena (22) lives about five houses away from Mjuau.

After his father died and his mother fell ill, he was forced to stay at home after passing Grade 12 to care for
his siblings.

Mokoena did odd jobs for about four years and when he landed a position as a merchandiser at a supermarket in Northgate in February, he had to quit because the travelling costs took a large chunk out of his R3 100 monthly wage.

He then took an old bakkie that belonged to his father and his welding equipment, and set up a welding business in his back yard.

“Business is slow. But it’s better than what I earned at the supermarket.”

Amanda Simelane (22), who lives at Makhado Close, didn’t even bother looking for a job after seeing how many of her peers sat at home for years.

She finished Grade 12 in 2007 and spent the following year doing entrepreneurship and deejaying courses.

She then started her own events business and also spins vinyls at social events.

Simelane has three people working for her on a part-time basis.

“Other than the National Youth Development Agency, there isn’t much funding support for those with business ideas,” she says.

Simelane insists that her peers are not making enough of the business training and other opportunities at their disposal because they ignore workshops that non-governmental organisations and the government bring to Diepsloot.

But other young people argue that it is difficult to start a business without education, business skills and facilities.

Milton Maphoto (26), who lives with his relatives on Mgababa Street, sees the inaccessibility of tertiary education as a big hurdle.

His application at a technical college to study boilermaking came to nothing because he failed Grade 12 in 2008.

He left Polokwane in Limpopo for Johannesburg in the belief that he stood a better chance of finding a job.

But he and his four cousins now survive on his elderly uncle’s pension.

“It’s difficult being unemployed. You don’t have R2 to make calls or fax when there are vacancies.”

Many young people with formal academic qualifications leave Diepsloot in search of greener pastures.

But for those who remain, the struggle continues.


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