Sweeping the streets, being a parking attendant, and other unpleasant jobs young people have to do to survive

by: Senate Selebalo - 13 September 2016

A job is a job, we are often told – especially in this tough job era. But what does it really feel like to be a street sweeper, a car guard or cleaner in your 20s, when you have so many dream and goals? We spoke to five young people, who gave us an insight into their unpleasant jobs, and they inspired us with their courage and enthusiasm for the future.

Shane Daniels (23)Crappy Jobs_Sep 2016_©oneleliwani-2

Home: Mitchells Plain

Job: Street Sweeper

“In the ghetto, the job that I’m doing is called the grand hustle, for the simple reason that not many young people would have the courage to wake up every day, hold a broom at the local taxi rank and start sweeping,” says Shane. During the three months Shane’s been working there he has encountered robbers, drug dealers and users, and most of them are people he grew up with. He understands that being a street sweeper is not the most attractive job, but, just like every young person who is out there trying to make a decent living, he believes that you have to start somewhere. “One thing prison has taught me is that there are no shortcut to success, and every action has a reaction.” Shane has started saving for culinary school and when he’s not at work, he writes songs and attends youth empowerment programmes, where he motivates young people.


Fiyaaz Abrahams (20)Crappy Jobs_Sep 2016_©oneleliwani-3

Home: Mitchells Plain

Job: Parking marshall

Fiyaaz has been working as a parking marshall for three weeks. It’s not an easy job, he says, because you’re on your feet the whole day, and the rainy days are brutal. He says because he’s only got a matric certificate, it’s not easy to get a better job, and being a new father is also what pushes him to take any job that comes his way. “The work that I do does not pay much, but I’m able to bring something back home every night from the tips I get.” Fiyaaz wants to do a short course in hospitality, and be a chef one day. For now his main focus is to ensure that his newborn baby gets everything she needs.


Bulelwa Bahlana (27)Crappy Jobs_Sep 2016_©oneleliwani-4

Home: Eastern Cape

Job: Casual cleaner

“I left the Eastern-Cape because I thought job opportunities here were much better,” says Bulelwa Bahlana. Bulelwa has been working at a mall in Cape Town’s CBD for the past two months, and her duties include keeping one floor in the mall clean, and ensuring that the public toilets are spotless. Her job is not easy but Bulelwa says she’s thankful to have it. It’s not an office job, as she would like, but it pays for her immediate needs.


Kholwane Nyengu (30)Crappy Jobs_Sep 2016_©oneleliwani-1

Home: Marikana, Nyanga

Job: Gold exchange marketer

Kholwane is one of eight guys who work on Adderley and Foreshore streets in the Cape Town CBD, wearing a “Gold for Money Exchange” board over his shoulders, handing out pamphlets to pedestrians. Kholwane says it’s funny how people always complain about the lack of jobs in this country, but are choosy about the type of job they are willing to do. “It’s not easy to stand here and experience harsh weather, have people throw away your pamphlet immediately after you turn your back, and put up a smile for the next person.” One thing he says he’s proud of is that he has some way of making money and providing for his family.


Tumi Makgaretsa (25)

Home: Soweto

Job: Bootle caps counter

Tumi started working at the bottle cap warehouse after completing her diploma in public management. She says, like everyone else, she thought having a diploma and being fresh out of varsity was going to open a lot of opportunities for her, but life had other surprises in store. Tumi adds that being humble and not being too proud, is one of the most important qualities that young people need to learn. “I haven’t given up, I’m still applying for those corporate jobs, and until that happens, life is still fabulous on the cap side because I’m still getting paid,” she says.

Photography: Onele Liwani 

Are you doing a job you don’t love? Please let us know how you feel about it, in the comments section below or on Facebook and Twitter.