AMANDLA! INTERVIEWED MEMBERS OF THE BOTSHABELO UNEMPLOYED MOVEMENT (BUM) ABOUT THEIR EXPERIENCES AS UNEMPLOYED PEOPLE. THESE ARE SOME OF THE THINGS THEY HAD TO SAY.
Unemployment and jobs
Amandla asked them about their experience of unemployment and looking for jobs.
This problem of unemployment, it is hurting us so much because in our area here in Botshabelo, we see the women, the teenagers with pregnancy. A lot of teenagers have their babies now and we don’t have jobs. We don’t have skills. We don’t have anything.
Even when we apply for jobs, they request bribery from us, especially as young boys. To young girls, they request to sleep with them. That is what they do. After matric, you can’t get a job without paying anyone bribery. You can imagine how you can pay bribery while we haven’t yet even earned the first month’s salary. You don’t even know how much you’re going to earn there.
We have qualifications. But then the system itself when you apply, they request experience. You can imagine when you come from the university, where do you get your experience? So you can imagine if someone is asking you for experience at your first year from the varsity, where are you going to be employed because you don’t have any experience? You haven’t yet been employed by any company.
Dignity and respect
The issue of dignity and respect came up frequently in the conversation. The general experience was of being completely disrespected as an unemployed person.
The other thing is that we have lost our dignity. If you are unemployed in our area, you are not getting enough respect from people who are rich.
There is this notion that unemployed people are lazy, they don’t want to work, they want handouts. That thing is not okay for us as the unemployed. We are not lazy. We are able and we have so many people who are unemployed but are graduates, so it doesn’t mean that if we are unemployed, we can do nothing. But we are saying to those people who are analysing our situation, they must refrain from saying to us we are lazy.
Basic Income Grant (BIG)
Dignity, as well as affordability, came up in the discussion about the Basic Income Grant.
The government insults us with that R350. From my point of view it’s not enough for someone at my age. Because things are costly.
As the BUM we are part of other organisations who are fighting the government, demanding a Basic Income Grant which is R1,500. We don’t want this R350 that Ramaphosa is offering us because it’s not enough.
For us it is really difficult. A loaf of bread is R14. But when you multiply R14 rand by 30 days, it makes R420. Which means you can’t be able to travel from here to Bloemfontein. You can’t even buy a cosmetic; you can’t even buy food. Or else otherwise, they must go there to open those factories. So that they try to decrease the number of unemployment. The only solution that we need is for them to create jobs. We demand jobs.
Of the three BUM members interviewed in July, one had received their R350 in June; another had received it in March. And the third last received it last year. The two who hadn’t received in the last month were told that their grant was “pending”. They had no idea what that meant.
The problem of gangsters came up often in talking about problems that comrades experienced.
Most of the other youth around our area, when they finish matric, they end up joining the gangsters. We are living with gangsters around our area, even scared to walk around the street.
Truly speaking, the gangsters, they’re fighting. And they’re doing the housebreaking. They are taking people at night; even month end they’re taking money from people. Even when it’s the grant of the older people. And they kill; they kill you at night. They are doing this nonsense because they are unemployed. That’s where I saw the need for us and other comrades to fight this thing of unemployed.
Solution to unemployment
Here is what comrades had to say when asked what the solution was to unemployment.
What is happening in my community is that the government doesn’t help us with skills development so that we can have our own companies or cooperatives.
In our area, we have so many factories that have been closed. And I think the government needs to start opening those factories. So that they can employ people to work. That is the only solution that we need.
Part of the solution will be the change of the system. Under the current system, we saw the onslaught of capitalism. Under the capitalist system, we are not going to see any light at the end of the day. But our view is that the government must abolish the system or the people themselves must come out and do away with the capitalist system. Because now the number of unemployed each and every quarter is rising. So it is the system that is doing this kind of job losses in our country.
A message to the employed
Amandla asked comrades in closing if they had any message for those people who still have jobs.
Government is the main source of this crisis. We want to say to the government, and those economists who are analysing our situation, they must not analyse our situation through their eyes because they are living in comfort zones. But we the unemployed, we are living in a dire situation.
I will tell them that sooner or later, the system is going to kick you out, you’re going to be unemployed, since you have seen that we are in a fifth industrial revolution that is going to take their jobs. Everything will be done by a robot. So they must work together with us and sup ort us when we challenge the system.
And finally, the psychological effects of long-term unemployment are rarely discussed, but they are by no means absent.
My comrade was laughing when I say that I’m crazy. This affected me to the extent that I look like I’m crazy. Really. Maybe I’m crazy because of being unemployed for so long.