Monday, May 26, 2008

The desperate wait at side of the road

This is the ‘new’ South Africa under the ANC.

A small elite connected to the powers-that-be have benefitted at the expense of the majority who struggle to eek out an existence, all this happening in a country of enormous potential and resources.

The nation’s wealth and potential has been squandered.

This is a government obsessed with spending hundreds of millions of rands renaming places rather than providing services and taking care of the basics needs of its people.

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Professor Tose waited at a set of traffic lights every day for three months before being offered a temporary job.

Eventually, on April 7, an elderly man picked him up to help him paint his Tamboerskloof home. Tose, 37, hasn't had a job since.

Things have become incredibly tough for the men waiting for work beside Cape Town's roads. On Monday a Hout Bay man collapsed and died on the pavement.

Police spokesperson Senior Superintendent Billy Jones said passers-by saw the man collapse at the traffic lights at the corner of Victoria Road and Helgarda Avenue and called for help. He died before the ambulance arrived.

And although police said the man died of "natural causes", other men waiting for work said he hadn't eaten all day and said he "starved to death".

South African Human Rights Commission spokesperson Vincent Moaga said the incident was an indictment of society.

It proved that the human rights of every citizen had not yet been addressed.

"It shows that we still have a lot to do as members of society to assist government in eradicating the plight of the poor and needy," said Moaga.

Meanwhile, Tose still reports to the same set of traffic lights on the corner of Strand and Buitengracht streets every day, begging for work from passing motorists.

He has to be up at 4am to catch the first train into town, on which he "steals" a ride into the city from Philippi. He has been doing this for the past four years after fleeing Queenstown in the Eastern Cape for a better life.

"I have to get up that early because I can't afford a train ticket," he said.

"I've been caught many times, but it's worth taking a chance every day because it could just be the day I'm offered a permanent job."

He said he stands at the traffic lights with a group of about 80 other unemployed men, aged from 17 to 50, from about 6am to 6pm every day.

"It's disappointing when none of us are offered jobs, but we have to come back here; there's nothing else for us to do. We want to earn an honest living."

Tose is just one of the hundreds of men who flock to the city every day in the hope of being offered work.

Sheer desperation has also recently resulted in women leaving their children at home to join the men on the side of the road.

Standing at a traffic light in Wynberg in the pouring rain, waiting for work, Maria Bavuma, 40, said she could no longer only depend on her husband's weekly wages.

She said the price of maize meal and other foods had almost doubled over the past six months and her family couldn't afford to live off R350 a week.

"I heard the people in this area need cleaners and maids," said Bavuma. "That's why I'm here. I have to get a job or my children will go to bed hungry every night."

Bavuma lives in Nyanga and also "steals" a ride on the morning train. "I've been caught once or twice, but I can't help it," she said. "My children have to be fed.

"When they catch us stealing train rides, I just have to walk to the closest set of traffic lights and beg."

Bavuma said in the past month she had only been offered a two-day ironing job once.

"I don't have any food and stand here rain or shine, almost all day.

"The rising food and energy prices are also adding to this problem. It is sad that people are collapsing on our streets almost daily of hunger."

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