Lockdown leaves 'piecemeal workers' hungry and afraid

People who rely on piecemeal work are battling to feed their families during the lockdown.  (Kimberly Mutandiro, GroundUp)
People who rely on piecemeal work are battling to feed their families during the lockdown. (Kimberly Mutandiro, GroundUp)

"Whenever cars stop they tell us to go home and stay safe from corona," says Lucky Shabalala as he waits along Industry Road in Springs, hoping to get work or something to eat.

Shabalala lives in White City section in Kwathema with his two children and sister. He walks about 7km to the popular pick up spot almost every day. He is one of six men at the spot who say they have no other choice if they are to feed their families.

These men - who survive on piecemeal jobs - say they had normally used this spot to wait for motorists passing by to give them work. When the lockdown was first announced to stop the spread of the coronavirus, most of the men said, they had tried to stay indoors, but returned after a week because their children had nothing to eat.

The strict lockdown has severely diminished these men's hope for work, and the situation has left them wondering where their next meal will come from.

'We are in need'

"At least now the government can see how serious we are when we say we are in need. Right now, any handouts will be useful so we can feed our families during this lockdown," Shabalala said.

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He used to work at a cleaning company which closed a month before the lockdown was implemented. For a few weeks thereafter, his employer picked him up once or twice a week from the spot for odd jobs, paying him R150 each time.

Shabalala says some motorists have given him R50 or R100, others a loaf of bread, during the past week. "At least during school days, my children could eat from the school feeding scheme. Food in the house has been finishing faster than ever."

Vusi Radebe says, during the first week of lockdown, a car picked him up for a gardening job. He earned R200 and bought groceries which lasted a few days. In the second week, he was given R290 which he also used to buy food.

"l managed to buy some mielie meal and a few other things. But l need to get more."

NOW READ | Councillors allegedly stealing food parcels during lockdown

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