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“At some point I felt like looking for a job became a job in itself”

by: Bulumko Gana - 6 November 2015

Unemployment among youth is a heated topic that pits parliamentarians and political parties against one another as they talk about the depressing numbers. We all know the stats; 62% of young South Africans are unemployed. But what does it really feel like to search for formal employment and fail, over and over again? These three Capetonians open up about their experiences.

Ricardo Vaas (26), Khayelitsha

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I have been looking for a job from 2014. The last job I had was as a cleaner in Century City at the beginning of last year. I would like to see myself working in a restaurant, because I enjoyed being in the kitchen while I was working in Kirstenbosch.

Looking for a job is expensive. You have to print out your CV, which usually costs between R4 or R8 per CV. But you don’t just print one CV, you try to make sure you have enough, at least 10 copies. You must have transport money, that’s why I use trains a lot as they are cheaper. Then there are those places like Westlake and Steenberg where you have to take a taxi after taking a train because there are no trains that go that side, so I always try to keep an extra R20.

There have been times where I’ve spent so much money on submitting CVs that I’ve struggled to go to the interview when I get called back. Like this other time when I’d submitted my CV in a restaurant in Camps Bay on a Monday, then they called me on the Friday and said I should come for an interview later on that day. But I couldn’t because I didn’t have transport money. It was hard to gather money, as a lot of people were at work and those who weren’t didn’t have money.

Sometimes I’ll go to my neighbours who work at night and ask that they let me use their train tickets to go to my interviews. Then I’ll need to rush home after the interview to make sure that I don’t make them late for their night shifts.

Now, I fix phones to make ends meet. I can’t do much, I can only fix minor problems.

 

Limise Bolani (25), Philippi

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The last time I had formal employment was in 2010 as a cashier at a kiosk in Nyanga Junction. Since then, I have been submitting my CV without success at various factory stores in Ndabeni and Salt River.

In 2013, I completed two sewing courses at Zenzele Training Center in Khayelitsha. It took over a year and my hope was that it would make me more employable as a seamstress. It didn’t. I am told I now need a certification called a “red card” in order to get a job for what I studied.

Currently I assist my mother in her sewing business. The money I get from that is used to buy food and to pay for other household expenses. I have some money saved, which I plan to use to buy my own sewing machine because travelling every day from Philippi to Khayelitsha, where my mother lives, is tiring and expensive. My ultimate goal is to work in a factory where there are target markets, high-speed sewing machines and a challenging environment so that I can sharpen my skill and learn about industry standards.

 

Luyanda Elloff  (27), Khayelitsha

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After I failed grade 12, I thought the next thing to do was to find a job, any kind of job, just to make some money. I submitted CVs and in 2010 got a few seasonal jobs as a waiter, construction worker and a cleaner. That continued until the beginning of 2013 but after that I didn’t have any more luck. It was hard for me to find work because I don’t have a matric.

At the end of 2013, I tried to count how much I’d spent looking for a job, and I’d lost almost R1,500 just from travel costs.

I was going from Khayelitsha to areas like Brackenfell, Westlake, Tygervalley and other areas submitting CVs in restaurants, supermarkets and offices that are looking for cleaners.

At some point I felt like looking for a job became a job in itself.

I was spending money that I didn’t have. At times I would have to ask my sister for money, even though I knew she was struggling with her two kids with a domestic worker salary.

Apart from not hearing any response after my applications, what hurts me is seeing people who I was job-hunting with in and around Cape Town getting jobs in places we both submitted CVs in. I’m not jealous of them, I just wish I could get a call saying I should come and work or at least come in for an interview. Now I just sit at home and wait for someone to tell me they are hiring, then I submit my CV. I did that for a restaurant job here in Khayelitsha.

Images: Bulumko Gana