Monday, November 09, 2009

Black madams suck, say maids

This isn't news to us. We've all heard anecdotes of black street beggars that don't approach black motorists because "they don't give". This is their culture. Everyone for himself. So much for that myth 'ubuntu'.


Black domestic workers would rather work for white madams than black "siesies" because they believe whites pay better. 

This is one of the findings by University of Witwatersrand sociology master's student Xoliswa Dilata, who investigated the relationship between black employers and domestic workers in Soweto. 

Dilata spent two months interviewing domestic workers and employers. 

"Common racial backgrounds and class inequalities become some of the factors that challenge both parties," she said in her thesis. 

Difficulties in the relationship included guilt among employers and, among the domestic workers, "a sense of common blackness that makes them have expectations of the employment relationship". 

Dilata said that employers entered the relationship with "deep-seated" fear that stemmed from their need not to treat their domestic workers like their own mothers had been treated in white suburbs. 

Employees also expected their black bosses to treat them differently, resulting in employers complaining that their domestic workers took them for granted and did not apply the same amount of effort as they would an employer of a different race - working harder for white or Indian employers, for example. 

"We want to treat them properly like our sisters, but they see us as fools and do not work properly - but expect a full salary," an employer told Dilata. 

A Johannesburg child minder, who asked not to be named, said she would never again work for a black family. 

"Blacks treat you worse than whites. You have your own sugar, your own milk powder, your own plate. When the visitors are there, they treat you well, but when the visitors leave they start from scratch (treating you badly)," she said. 

"How can this person treat me like this and it's the same colour as me?" 

Performer and Idols judge Mara Louw is researching domestic workers for a TV series on the topic. She said that, in her own home, she had maintained a good relationship with her former domestic worker, based on mutual respect and an understanding of each other's roles: "Right from the beginning I had a whole page of what to do and when and she would do it." 

Louw said there was a concern among some employers that young domestic workers might steal their husbands. Dilata's study confirmed this. 

"Problems ... arise when the employer feels threatened or jealous because the domestic workers are already performing most of the household duties that they, as wives, should be doing," she said. 

Some of the other concerns highlighted in Dilata's survey included African employers paying domestic workers below the minimum wage of R1166. 

"Domestic workers express a realisation that even though their employer had changed, inequality and exploitation had remained the same," said Dilata. "This realisation often led to African employers being labelled as the worst employers because domestic workers entered the relationship with the hope that the employers would treat them differently because they were sisters."

3 Opinion(s):

Anonymous said...

When I was still in SA, I used to see the Muslim women with their black maids doing shopping. It was amazing to see how they spoke down to them and how they treated them - worse than I've ever witnesed by a white (actually, I've never seen a white women mistreat her maid). There's more racism between coloureds and blacks than between whites and blacks/coloureds.

Anonymous said...

I GRE UP WITH A HELPER AT HOME, SHE WAS TRTEATED LIKE A MEMBER OF THE FAMILY, AT ONE POINT WE SHARED A BEDROM WITH HER AND ALWAYS RESPECTED HER. NOW I AM AN ADULT AND HAVE MY OWN CHILDREN, I HAVE STRUGGLED WITH DOMESTIC HELPERS, ALL MY WHITE CLOTHES LOOK GREY, EVEN THOUGH I SHOWED HER HOW TO SEPERATE WASHING BY COLOUR. I HAVE TO WAIT UNTIL 07H30 IN THE MORNING FOR HER TO ARRIVE, WHILE MY WHITE NEIGHBOURS HELPER ARRIVES AT 6H30, I AM NEVER SATISFIED WITH THE WORK AND HAVE HAD DISCUSSIONS WITH HER, WHICH EN DUP WITH HER DISPLAYING A SULLEN FACE, BANGING DOORS AND ITEMS IN THE HOUSE, SHOUTING AT MY CHILDREN IGNORING MY INSTRUCTIONS TO A POINT WHERE I FEEL LIKE AN UNWELCOMED VISITOR IN MY OWN HOUSE. EVERY DAY I FIND MY HELPER ALREADY ON THE OUTSIDE WAITING FOR ME TO ARRIVE I KNOCK OFF AT 16HOO FROM WORK. SHE DOES NOT WORK DURING WEEKENDS AND PUBLIC HOLIDAYS. I HAVE HAD TO REPLACE CHIPPED GLASSWARE, GIVE AWAY CLOTHING SHE HAD DESTROYED OR BURNT. I HAVE NEVER ONCE DEDUCTED THE COST OF THE ITEMS FROM HER SALARY AND I HAVE TAKEN A RETIREMENT INSURANCE FOR HER. THIS FOR ME SAYS I AM HOPING FOR A LONG TERM RELATIONSHIP BUT IT DOES NOT LOOK LIKE IT.

Viking said...

@Anon

sadly a common tale - with a simple solution, fire her and get another.

What I never understood about South Africa was the contempt many employees showed for their jobs and employers while there were 200 people outside begging to do the same job.
It was almost like they would desparately need employment, but once they got the job, they lost interest. Mad.