Zimbabwean national Majaya Sithole, 28, slept under a bridge for a week when he first arrived in Limpopo’s capital Polokwane in search of a job four years ago.
Sithole, a qualified boilermaker, is one of many foreign nationals, especially from Zimbabwe, who wake up every morning to wait on street corners hoping to get picked up by a possible employer.
When a big, grey SUV stopped near the entrance of the Disteneng informal settlement, a group of men, some of them dressed in overalls, rushed to speak to the driver through the window.
This scene is nothing unusual as groups of eager job seekers can be spotted sitting on street corners all over the town, displaying their chain saws, paint brushes and other tools.
Sithole said it was a daily gamble as there was no guarantee of finding work.
He said he came to South Africa after completing his training as a boilermaker and enduring a failed job hunt which lasted for over a year back home.
The Zimbabwe Independent Online recently reported that the South African embassy was processing about 6000 work and study permit applications a month from Zimbabweans in search of economic refugee status.
The report also stated that the movement (to SA) happened at the back of major job cuts and closure of companies in SA.
“When I got to SA, for the first week I stayed under a bridge. It was tense. Then someone hired me and I got a little shack here at Disteneng,” Sithole said.
He said although unemployment was also a problem in SA, chances of earning a living seemed far better compared to Zimbabwe.
Another job seeker, father of three Alfred Kwiri from Masvingo in Zimbabwe, said he left home in 2011 after the mining company where he worked as a motor mechanic was shut down.
“I left because mines were closing. Sometimes people would work without getting paid for a long time,” Kwiri said.
He said most people were willing to do any job despite having specific skills. “Nowadays I don’t select jobs because work is scarce. When I first came here in 2011 there were not so many people waiting at the marketing spots,” he said.
Kwiri said many people were pushed out of their home country by an intense drought which swept over the SADC countries, including SA and Zimbabwe, crippling the agricultural sector.
Kwiri said SA’s current economic climate was also taking its toll on them (foreigners) as locals were starting to pay less for their services.
“The problem is that the inflation rate in SA is too high now and this affects us. Sometimes you get paid R50 for a job, which is nothing especially if you have kids,” he said.
At another marketing corner, Patience Sibanda ,42, waits in the hope of getting picked up for a laundry or cleaning job.
“I can look after children, clean and do the washing,” she said.
Sibanda, who has to send money back home to support her three children, said some days she goes back to her rented backyard room with nothing.
“I can’t get a job every day. Sometimes I only manage to work three days a week,” she said.
Source : Online