Beating the unemployment bug in rural Limpopo

When Tinyiko Ndlovu heard there was going to be a project to install a bulk water pipeline in her village she prayed she would be among those employed in the scheme.

There are hardly any job opportunities in her home village of Gawula, a rural village 12km northeast of the Limpopo town of Giyani. Many of the men and youth from the village have followed the well-worn path followed by their forebears to seek employment in distant Gauteng.

Gawula, with its dry, dusty gravel roads is one of those laid-back areas that appears to have been forgotten by time. Homesteads are mostly cone-shaped, earth-built, brightly painted rondavels with grass thatching. Some of the residents have managed to build beautiful brick houses next to the rondavels.

In line with procedures followed when such an opportunity comes up in rural villages such as Gawula, Ndlovu put her name down as one of those interested in being hired for the project.

When the big day came to select the successful candidates, she headed for the local traditional council where the selection was to take place. She prayed hard to be among those hired.

Pieces of paper with names of the applicants were put in a bucket. A representative from the community was chosen to randomly pick the names from the bucket as the hopeful candidates and the local folk looked on intently.

In 2011 Statistics South Africa noted that there were 2 478 people from 641 households in Gawula. Jobs are scarce and when an opportunity such as this one comes along almost the entire population scrambles for the few vacancies available.

Khato Civils is implementing the project together with South Zambezi Engineering Services, and have already created more than 1 500 jobs in the 55 villages in the Greater Giyani municipality.

Ndlovu was lucky to be among those chosen to work on the project. “I was happy when I heard my name was among those selected,” says Ndlovu (45). She started work in May 2016 as a general worker and has never looked back. She later underwent training in first aid and is now a first aid representative.

“My life has changed for the better since I started working for Khato Civils,” she says during a break on the construction site, where her team is laying down a water pipeline.

“I’m a single mother. I was struggling to support my children because I was sitting at home with no work,” says Ndlovu. Now she is able to pay the fees and other costs for her eldest son, who is studying financial management in Johannesburg. Her two daughters are in high school and her youngest is in primary school.

“I was surviving on a social grant. Life was very hard,” says Ndlovu. The income she derives from her job has also enabled her to pursue her love for community building.

Ndlovu runs the Gawula Netball Club and Gawula Ladies Football Club. Every afternoon at 4pm when she knocks off she joins the young girls for training on a dusty field in the village. On Fridays, they gather at her home, where they sleep over in preparation for games at the weekend.

“I was unable to help these children when I was unemployed. Now I’m able to make a difference in their lives. That is why I’m so grateful for this job. It has really made a big difference. I hope that one day when we finish this project Khato Civils will take me with wherever they go. It does not matter where, even to Cape Town, I will go there, because that means I will be able to continue supporting these children.”

The project has also helped young men such as Patrick Sithole (26) to work closer to home. He had joined his fellow villagers on the long trek to Gauteng in search of job opportunities. He lived in informal settlements on the outskirts of Johannesburg doing piece jobs. “It was tough. Life is very rough there. I did not like it at all,” he says.

Then last year he heard about the project by Khato Civils. Fortunately, he too was hired, and has never looked back. “It is good to work closer to home. Now I see my children every day and it feels good.” His children are one and six years old.

“It was hard being away from them. It was not good because I had to raise a lot of money to come home, which I could not do every month. I missed important events and ceremonies here at home, because I was far away in Jo’burg,” he says.

“Life is good now because I no longer have to send money home and then also support myself in Jo’burg,” he says.

According to the 2011 Census by the Statistics South Africa, only 1.1% of residents of Gawula had access to tap water.

Ndlovu says the shortage of water in the village remains a serious problem. But she is happy to be part of a big team working to change all that.

“I know that one day we will have water. I will be able to tell my children and their children that I’m the one who helped to bring water to the village. I’m proud of that,” she says.

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Lucas Ledwaba
Lucas Ledwaba
Journalist and author of Broke & Broken - The Shameful Legacy of Gold Mining in South Africa.

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