During South Africa’s platinum miners’ strike that ended in June this year, I was puzzled by union members who suggested they’d rather be unemployed than earn what they described as a “low wage”. I was really startled by their remarks. It made no sense to me, not only because I have had low-wage jobs, but also because I couldn’t imagine a poor desperate South African rejecting a low-pay job in favour of an incapability to feed, clothe and house their families.
During my first year at Rhodes University, eight years ago, I was lucky enough to find temporary jobs during the holidays, mostly in gardening and construction. I had also submitted my resumé to various restaurants and clothing shops and responded to a number of job advertisements, but with no luck.
When my father told me of a family in need of someone to assist with their garden at least once a week, I thought “Thank God”. I was ecstatic and looked forward to work, long before I even knew how much I was going to be paid. What mattered to me most was that I was about to earn a wage that could, at some point, help me buy a bus ticket back to Grahamstown to continue with my Bachelor of Commerce studies. I needed the money.
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