Ramadan – Gauteng II
“Poverty is not something people impose on themselves for want of effort and community organisation. It is constructed by divisive and discriminatory laws, inflexible organisations, acquisitive ideologies of wealth, a deeply-rooted class system and policies which serve privilege in the short term and destroy society in the long term. Poverty is caused by private monopoly, landlordism, employerism, ownership.”
“Don’t worry, the maid’s coming tomorrow,” he says as I start clearing up. “The maid? Is that what you call her? How much do they get paid anyway?” I’ve not yet felt comfortable to ask the question, but this is one guy I’m not shy around. “R100 a day, plus R100 at the end of the month, so less than £10.” There is a bill – the Domestic Workers Act – outlining the rights of the estimated 1.5 million domestic workers in South Africa. It says that for those working more than 27 hours/week in an urban area, the minimum wage is a meagre R7.40 per hour, for those working less, it’s R8.74. Just like in the UK, the minimum wage is far from a living wage. Many domestic workers have their entire families dependant on them, which can force them to ‘live to work’ at their ‘employers’ – usually in a shack in the garden.
This is a short documentary film about one South African domestic worker who lived with a white family, bringing up their son whilst her own child grew not knowing her. If it asks for a password, just send them a message and they’ll give it to you.
I write this at the campus of UCT, the University of Cape Town. After being showed around, the radio station, varsity newspaper etc, I went up to see the Rhodes memorial (will never understand the glorification of a colonist). The university is blessed to practically be set on the side of Table Mountain, giving it fantastic views and a very unique feel. I arrived in CT last night after almost a week in Johannesburg. I have to confess that, despite previous remarks on the excessive use of domestic flights in this country, I did fly. It was by far the cheapest and quickest option – costing me less than train ticket from Manchester to London and taking the same length of time.
I did like Joburg. I was told of many of the cities ‘ills’, such as having the highest crime rate in the country, but my experience bore little relation. I generally like big cities for one reason – the sheer number of people. I met some awesome (yes, you) people there. During my time there I managed to visit some 7 different Mosques and get a feel for the great variety of culture. I went to Soweto, gaining some perspective on the struggles that took place and feeling inspired by the youth uprising. We visited the Hector Pieterson Museum (a powerful place) as well as the Freedom Charter Memorial in Kliptown. The Museum there asked some challenging questions, such as “What is Freedom?”
I actually met a friend on the new batch of Platform 2 volunteers (there is a project in Soweto) in the mall there. She told me about their restrictions – 13 people living in one house, their only ‘excursion’ is a weekly visit to the mall. I asked what time their curfew is, “We have to be in bed by 10pm,” she said. “Oh that’s not so bad,” I replied, “So where can you go?” “No, we can’t leave the house.” I was amused, it’s actually worse than I’d thought.
Before I left Joburg we visited the Origins Centre, the origins of man in Southern Africa, and the Mai Mai ‘Traditional Healers Market’, another very interesting place. Interspersed with heavy conversation ranging from ‘getting in touch with ancestors’ to the power of writing, it was a pretty awesome way to end my stay in Joburg.
Now I’m about to travel to Stellenbosch in Cape Town’s rain. Wish me luck!