Waiting for help

South Africa – Cape Town – 6 June 2020 – Coronavirus Lockdown – An unemployed building contractor is one of many unemployed people on Rosmead Avenue, Wynberg. Picture: Tracey Adams/African News Agency(ANA)

Lucky Thukelo, 37, from Imizamo Yethu, lost his job in June when Covid-19 forced the carpenters he worked for to close shop.

He had been in the job, as an assistant, for seven years.

Finding work after that was impossible, he says, because of the lockdown.

He is now one of a growing number of men gathering at the roadside in Hout Bay, hoping to land some work, any work.

“I applied everywhere, but nobody is hiring now because of the virus. Everybody tells you the same thing, so we sit here and hope something will happen.”

For two months, Mr Thukelo has been coming to the same spot for work. In that time, he has been picked up twice.

“I had to clean a yard, and then I had to paint a house, and I only made R300 to support my wife and two children. How do you live off R300?

“I have to sit here and hope somebody picks me up to work.”

Dumisani Booysen was a bricklayer at a construction site in Camps Bay until earlier this year in May, when money for the development ran out and he was let go.

He waited for the call telling him the building job was back on, but it never came.

So he too stands on the roadside, hoping a passing motorist will offer him work.

“I came back to this place that got me that work, but it has been very tough. The guys here rather sit and drink all day because it takes away their problems.”

There have been scenes of growing despair and desperation at the spots where these unemployed men gather.

Aneeb Foster, of Hout Bay, was dropping his son off at the skate park last week when he saw a van pull up next to some of the men waiting for work.

“They attacked that van, fighting each other and chasing each other. Everybody in the skate park stood still and watched this drama unfold. There were guys armed with bricks and ready to hurt each other.

These guys are in a desperate state, and they will do anything for money right now.”

Several of the men had been drinking and gambling, he said.

“You can see some of the guys busy creating their wire art and trying to collect some more things to use in order to resell. They sit amongst this chaos and then also get labelled in the wrong way, when all they are trying to do is work and hope to get picked up for more work.”

Mary Anne Lewis, another resident, picked up two men to do gardening at her home when she noticed several men with beer bottles who appeared to be drunk while others were gambling.

“I was shocked, and I decided against picking up the guys. I want to help, but it’s difficult to help somebody who decides to drink and gamble all day with the little they already have.”

Ward councillor Roberto Quintas said he had received complaints from the public about the men gathering at the roadside for work.

“This pandemic has forced people out of work and forced people to go and find work.

“We should be happy that they are at least not out breaking into homes and getting involved with crime,” he said.

He also confirmed that when complaints are received, Law Enforcement is actioned and the matter is being investigated.

Anyone witnessing violence, public disturbances or public drinking should notify the police, he said.

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