Waiting for jobs for nine years

JON HOUZET

THE casual job seekers who gather daily outside the gates of the Royal Alfred Marina will soon have a new venue to wait, with shelter and toilets.

This follows complaints by residents about the men loitering in the area. They have been doing so for years.

Residents and potential home buyers have been among those complaining, but Royal Alfred Marina Homeowners Association (Ramhoa) chairman Justin de Wet Steyn declined to comment.

But Ward 10 councillor Ross Purdon said: “This situation can’t go on like this.”

“It’s not a good picture for the entrance to our town and there are no toilets and no shelter for these men.”

He has made arrangements for another venue for the men to wait for jobs, next to the Home Affairs office in Pascoe Crescent, where they would have shelter and access to toilets.

LOOKING FOR WORK: Some of the men who wait daily outside the gates of the Royal Alfred Marina in the hope of getting a casual job Picture: JON HOUZET

“We like the idea of a central place to wait, with shelter, because sometimes it rains – as long as people know that’s the place they can find casual labour,” said Smilo Mangane, one of 30 to 40 men who wait outside the marina, and in small groups along Albany Road in the hope of getting a casual job.

They range in age from men in their early 20s to a 60-year-old. All have similar stories – they are the main breadwinners in their families, they have children to support, but jobs are scarce.

Each time a car stops a few men approach to see if work is being offered, and if it is, there is a mad scramble to be the ones chosen.

Mangane is 27 but looks ten years older, like he has lived a hard life.

“I came from Bathurst and I’ve lived in Port Alfred about five or six years,” he said.

“I’ve never had a permanent job.”

He said he had been coming to the marina entrance to look for work ever since he moved to Port Alfred.

The men view it as the most likely place to find work because of the affluence of marina residents.

“I do gardening work and some building,” said Mangane, who supports two children.

The jobs differ greatly in length. Some are only for a few days, but a good thing will last a couple of months. Days and weeks pass in between jobs, said Mangane, and the other men agreed.

Ndumiso Bobo, 23, said he started looking for work at the marina entrance two years ago.

He said he was born in Hayes and moved to Port Alfred in 1996.

He found work in Port Elizabeth a few years ago.

“But that’s when things were good,” he said.

“In Port Elizabeth they paid me R80 a day for gardening work. After gardening I got some work throwing concrete and building homes.”

But it got to a point he could not find work in Port Elizabeth anymore, so Bobo returned to Port Alfred.

“I wait here up to a week a time without work,” he said. “A job lasts anywhere from one day to a couple of months.”

One of the oldest men in the group, Gerald Nguqa, 60, said he had been coming to the marina entrance for five years. He has lived in Nemato all his life and never had a permanent job.

“We wait here because the people at the marina are the most likely ones who will be looking for casual labour,” he said.

He said the jobs he had done included gardening and varnishing wood.

Mpithizelo Bakada, 47, has a long history associated with the marina, as he worked on its construction about 24 years ago.

“I’ve been coming here for nine years looking for casual jobs,” he said.

“I do building work and some plastering.”

But he said times were so tough if someone stopped by offering gardening work he would take it.

He said he had noticed in the years he had come to the marina entrance looking for work, the number of men joining him had greatly increased.

The men were grateful that the Port Alfred Soup Kitchen fed them soup and bread twice a week.

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