Unemployment tales: Morena Percy Mofokeng, Bree Street
In our new series on the unemployed, we seek to put a face behind an issue of national priority. SA’s unemployment rate has jumped to 25%, with the expanded rate rising to 36%. As debate gets distracted by other issues, Mofokeng, 22, who moved to Johannesburg in search of work, tells his story. He has no experience and no qualifications but wants a job to turn his life around. GREG NICOLSON interviewed him in Braamfontein.
My parents are still in Vereeniging. They are working. My mother’s working in the kitchen. My father’s working in a firm. He is working at cleaning steel. I haven’t spoken to my parents since last year. I’m sure now they are feeling bad because they don’t know where I am staying or whether I’m working or I die or not die. They wouldn’t know, me dying or not dying.
But I don’t like living with them. They live in the location. After one month in Joburg living in Thembisa I went back to visit. They were still crying, ‘You don’t have a job.’ They’re not changing. They stick to crying. I go back and see they don’t change it. I will come for them later.
When I was young I wanted to play soccer (professionally) but I didn’t have a chance to go to the trials. I didn’t finish matric. I lost school at grade eight because if the teachers wanted money for something like school fees or uniforms my parents wouldn’t buy for me. They were crying and still crying, ‘There’s no money. The teachers are crazy.’ Sometimes you’d get a book for reading and lose the book and must pay for it.
Me, I want a job, any job. I don’t care if it’s cleaning like this street cleaner. I want a job. I’ve been in Joburg for one year and one month staying in the street. I want a job. If I get a job I will change things because I will get a place to stay.
I came to Joburg because I want a job. I want to change my life, maybe do something like the other people. They are living life. Me, I want to live in life.
Every day I take the cardboard for recycling. Sometimes it’s scrap. I get the scrap to the scrap yard and sometimes I get maybe R50, R30, R40, sometimes R60, sometimes R20, sometimes R10. It’s different. It’s not straight money. Sometimes I get nothing, like now. I take the cardboard boxes to get food sometimes. If I get money I buy a loaf of bread and I buy the cheapest juice and I’ll eat it. If I don’t get money, nothing.
I stay in the street near Bree Street, near the taxi rank. It’s bad, not good. Sometimes it’s cold, you see? Sometimes staying in the street you see the bad things. Sometimes the other guys do wrong things. They are abusing people. They make us look like criminals so people take it that if you’re staying in the street you’re a tsotsi.
I feel bad, don’t feel nice. But if I get a job I’ll be changing my life. Now you see, I’ll get a flat. I’ll have the chance to bathe nice. Now, I’m not getting a chance to wash nice and sometimes I get soap but there’s no place to wash.
If you are not employed, ah, you are not feeling alright. You are feeling bad because you are not being good. Always you feel angry. You don’t feel good. Always you feel angry. Because if you want something you are not going to get it.
I have friends. But me, always, I’m going with me only, like I know other people who are sleeping there (at Bree). We are sleeping all together. But I don’t say I have best friends here.
I don’t have a girlfriend. Well, yes, but I’m not working. My girlfriend is staying there in that flat but they want R400 to stay. She was telling me I must want a job and if I get a job I must go to stay there, but I can’t get a job.
But if I get any job I will work. Because I see the time is going now. If I want to play soccer, say I want to go to the trials, I don’t have a chance to go there. That is why I say that any job I get I will work it. I see the chance is going. I want to change my life because if I get a job I will be changing my life because I will be making something for what I want and I will be happy.
I will start to find a place to stay then after that I will budget money. I will do recording for the music, you see, make a CD. I like music. I know small, small, small, but I will try. I will sit down and think until my mind will be right. When I see my mind is right then I will start to make it. Just now I have too much stress.
I will see if my money is right for staying in the flats or if it’s right for staying in the location. If it’s right for staying in the flats I will stay in the flats. If it’s right for staying in the location I will stay in the location. And after that if I see I’m working nice I will go to my home and help my parents and help each other. And I’ll help others who are not having a good life, suffering peoples. I will try to help them.
I’m looking for a job there by Park Station – at the butcher, in the campus shop and in the ticket house. They say there is no job. I must just try. I must just try. I don’t know how long it will take. I will try. Maybe it will take a long time, I don’t know how long.
The government’s doing nothing for me. Government is doing nothing. Sometimes I go there and they tell me I must sign, sign for working, and I want to work but they’re not helping. There’s not anyone to help me. DM
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Photo: Morena Percy Mofokeng (Greg Nicolson)