Waiting for work, day after day after day

2016-03-21 08:01
Donald Mutasa scrapes together money to send back to his family in Zimbabwe, despite earning very little every week. (Masixole Feni, GroundUp)

Donald Mutasa scrapes together money to send back to his family in Zimbabwe, despite earning very little every week. (Masixole Feni, GroundUp)

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Expand grant system for rural unemployed, suggests analyst

2016-03-11 13:49

Professor Jeremy Seekings says surveys show "most South Africans" don't support the idea of an unemployment grant for young, able people. However, he says older unemployed people in rural South Africa could benefit from a reduction in the age of eligibility for the national pension. WATCH

Ashleigh Furlong, GroundUp

Cape Town – On street corners across Cape Town, men and women wait for work, often spending the whole day there without luck. Some have been coming to these spots for years. The luckier manage to get work for one or two days a week.

In the city centre, from the corner of Buitengracht and Strand streets towards Rose Lane, men begin gathering around 07:00. By 09:00 there are about 30 men waiting and watching as the cars pass by.

Every time an empty bakkie pulls up, the men sprint to it.

A few minutes later the bakkie pulls away with at most a couple of men in the back, on their way to work as tilers, painters, bricklayers or general labourers.

The rest of the men trudge back to their spots to wait for the next bakkie.

“We are too many here [to all get work],” said one.

Vusi Gefe, 37, has been coming to this spot to look for work since he was 30. He travels here every day from Khayelitsha.

"Sometimes, I don’t get a job and have to go back to Khayelitsha with nothing,” he said. The last time he got work was more than a week ago.

Vusi Gefe says that if he doesn't get a job he is forced go back to Khayelitsha with nothing.

Seven years ago Gefe lost his job as a cleaner. He now specialises in tiling but mostly gets work as a general labourer.

His girlfriend works in a restaurant and she supports him and their 19-month-old son when he doesn’t have work.

"When I’m tiling I charge R250 to R350 a day, but when I'm working in general work they pay me R150 to R180," said Gefe.

Men standing and waiting for work on Rose Street. (Masixole Feni, GroundUp)

"I hope one day I will get a permanent job because I don’t want to stand here the whole day," he said. “I have to support the kid; I have to buy clothes and food … So if I don’t find a job, I will be frustrated."

Kevin Dalmain waits down the road where it is less busy, looking slightly out of place in his smart shirt.

Dalmain is 50 and has two children. He lost his bricklayer job about a year-and-a half ago when the company he worked for moved overseas.

 “I couldn’t afford to go overseas, because what would happen to my family?” said Dalmain.

He lives with his girlfriend, who is also unemployed, in Woodstock.

He has been coming to this corner for about three months.

“Sometimes people [who] come here pay good money, so then you ask for a regular job and, if the luck strikes, then it is good. But sometimes, the people just pay R50 or R60 a day. The most is R150 a day for bricklaying,” he said.

“Sometimes it’s embarrassing, because what do people think about you?”

Donald Mutasa, 35, came to the country from Zimbabwe seven months ago hoping to train as a truck driver.

For the past four months, he has been coming to this corner looking for work.

“There are no jobs in Zimbabwe,” he said. He has been saving for his training, but with the little money he earns and with having to support his family, this is hard.

Mutasa has a wife and four children back home in Zimbabwe. He manages to send money to them though he works only one or two days a week for R150 a day.

“I try my best to send what I have,” he said. He doesn’t want his family to come to South Africa until he gets a permanent job.

He has been saving for his training, but with the little money that he earns and with having to support his family, this is hard.

Men wait on the corner of Rose Lane and Strand Street for work. (Masixole Feni, GroundUp)

Amos Dube, 25, sits on the pavement alongside a truck that is offloading goods for a liquor store.

Dube is an auto-electrician but he has not worked as one for two years. He has had to work as a plasterer and a general labourer.

He says he has been coming to this spot for two months, travelling from Philippi.

If fortunate, he works three times a week earning R150 a day.

He walks around, handing out his CV to prospective employers, but he has not received a response for more than a month.

“You can’t manage a good living with that money,” he said.

His wife works at a restaurant, earning R400 a week, which they use to support their 18-month-old child.

Less than a kilometre down the road, opposite Cape Town train station, a small group of women wait on the corner of Strand and Lower Plein streets hoping for domestic work.

Women wait for domestic work opposite the Cape Town train station (Masixole Feni, GroundUp)

Esther Mahwehwe has been looking for work for a month since she moved to Cape Town from Durban.

A relative told her she should come and look for work here.

A widow, Mahwehwe, 48, is Zimbabwean. She worked in Durban for four years but then her boss died and she lost her job.

She has now managed to secure work for two days a week, but said: “You can’t survive on two days' [work]”.

She has to support her children and grandchildren in Zimbabwe.

“They don’t have jobs. They don’t have money,” she said. “Your blood pressure can go high [when you are unemployed]. I can’t sleep, just thinking how can I get a job … I need to have money to survive.”

Another woman from Zimbabwe, Mary Chigodora, also waits on the corner. She has been in Cape Town for five years and has been looking for permanent work for the past two years.

She said she is “sick and tired” of coming to this spot.

“I buy a train ticket every month, but I won’t get a job here. The children, they need to eat. I just come here to struggle,” she said.

Chigodora works two days a week as a babysitter for two families.

Despite her constant worry about making ends meet, Chigodora makes the other women laugh at her jokes as they wait around for work.

Terry Ncube has been looking for work for the past two months because she could not make enough money from her clothes-trading business to support she and her son in Zimbabwe.

“My brother sometimes helps me with rent and food,” said Ncube, a 49-year-old widow.

Her biggest worry is her son in Zimbabwe, she said. She hasn’t seen him for two years. He lives with his grandmother.

 “I am so stressed,” said Ncube. “My son is supposed to go to university but I can’t manage to pay.”

Her son wants to study computer sciences and did very well in his A-levels.

“I used to send money back and some food but now I can’t … I just need to get something so that he will be able to look after himself,” she said.

Read more on:    cape town  |  labour  |  poverty

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