Sunday, 26 May 2013

Blurred Lines

The words on the paper read "Casual Staff needed". Nothing more. I was waiting for my mom to finish at the bank, so I went in and asked about the position. The manager wasn't there but I got her e-mail address and sent my CV. Then I heard nothing for a few days, so I assumed the position had been filled.

On Thursday I received an e-mail asking if I could stop by, and then the manager lady asked if I could start the following day. In my eagerness I agreed.

The day started at 8.30 and ended at 17.36, with one hour lunch break. What did I do for 8 hours? I stood behind a cash register, scanned items, packed them in bags and had people pay me large amounts for art supplies. It was the very opposite of exciting.

Lunch time was the highlight, because in the shopping centre there are three benches, and all the shops' employees crowd onto the benches. It was really stupidly designed to not at least plan a little green area outside or add more benches or something for people to sit on. I was sitting alone, wondering what to do for an hour, when a lady who works as a cashier at the Pick 'n Pay came and sat next to me. She was eating a custard-pudding mix for lunch and started asking about the new job.

Two other ladies arrived. They tried teaching me some Sotho. I sounded very white trying to say "Dumela", "O kae?" and "Ke teng", which is hello-how are you-I'm fine. They told be that earning R200 (a bit less than €20 at the current exchange rate) a day is an ok salary, and if there were other jobs available because the one lady's sister was looking for work.

The manager at the store had told be she was looking for young students to work on occasion, and she did not want to sound racist when she said she wanted to hire people who were good with customers. It is a really disparate situation: here I am, thinking that this is really bad pay for a days work because I am overqualified and cannot imagine how anyone could survive on a salary of R4000 per month. Rent alone costs that, never mind paying for anything else. And then there is this lady's sister who is in desperate need of a job, but she can't even apply for it because she is not what they are looking for.

I know it is like that in every job, that employers have a specific idea of what they want, which is naturally their right. But this job? It is not hard to learn, one needs no real previous experience except for actually being able to talk to people.

Meanwhile the government is spending excessive amounts on renaming streets and building toll-roads that no-one can really afford. Good lord, people. I do not understand how you cannot see that educating people and giving them basic access to services is more important than throwing a big bash for fat cats that are all abusing their countries in the same way.  It seems that in Africa, maybe everywhere?, as soon as one has power one becomes corrupt.

A friend of mine in Romania started this group called Incubator 107, and I think their aim is cultural interaction through everyone teaching everyone else something. I don't understand Romanian, so it could be completely wrong. I think it is aimed more at an artistic exchange of abilities, but for a South African context the same model could perhaps be adapted to have a more educational component: how to write a proper CV, how to dress and act during an interview, basic computer literacy, etc.

There are so many charity organisations, so many volunteers that come from overseas, so many people willing to help one another. I just wonder how one could get the government to realise they are working for the people, not for themselves, and that improving the situation for all in South Africa is more important than drafting the Secrecy Bill or flying up an entourage to celebrate the AUs 50th birthday.

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