After the flood

For a long time, people in South Africa have waited for rain. The land is dry and cracked. People cannot grow anything. And their animals are dying a slow, painful death.

At the end of January, the people in Natal, Swaziland and Mozambique got rain. It came and came and came. It didn’t stop.

Strong winds and heavy rain hit the dry land. Soon the rivers were too full. Water flooded the land and many people died.

Many people lost their houses. Roads and bridges were broken. The people lost nearly everything before the rain. But after the rain, they had nothing left.

Created by Readiris, Copyright IRIS 2005Philemon Myeni comes from the part of Natal that was hit by the storm. He was not there when the rain came. But his family was there.

Philemon has not heard from his family. He is very worried. He waits and waits. The days pass slowly and painfully. He told us his story:

“l was born in the village of Bhamganoma near Mkuze. It is a country place and the land is good. We keep animals. We plough along the Mkuze river. We grow mealies, corn, small beans and mbumba. The river is fu II of fish and good for swimming.

A few years ago I fell in love. wanted to marry Elizabeth. I needed R 120 for lobola. So I worked in a bakery in Mkuze for R40 a month. I paid the lobola after a few months.

“I lived in Bharnqanorna with my wife Elizabeth Ntombithini and our children. Their names are Bhekuyise, Tholakele, Ndukuzakhe. My grandmother, my mother and my sisters also live there. And so do my two brothers, Joseph and Elias.

There is no money in Bharnqanorna. So some of the family must go and work in the cities. Joseph and Elias went to work in the city.

But then Elias lost his job. The family had a meeting. “Elias has worked hard for a long time in the city,” they said. “It is time for him to come home and be with us again.” Now it was my turn to get a job in the city. I had to leave my new wife.

I felt strange. I was frightened and also excited. And for the first time in my life, I felt lonely. The time went as fast as a Putco bus. Too soon it was the day for me to leave.

My wife and children came to say goodbye. They were happy because I was going to fetch money. They smiled and waved. That was the last time I saw them.

I came to Durban and got a place in the Kwa-Mashu hostel. My brother Joseph and other friends were there. I got a job at the animal hospital. That’s a place that looks after sick animals.

They paid me R 100 a month. I sent R40 a month home. I felt happy and proud. My job was to clean the offices for the whites. I also made them tea and fed the animals.

I missed my family. And I didn’t like sharing a small room with four other men. But I was not unhappy. Sometimes we went and watched soccer on Saturdays.

Sometimes we went to the city. We walked the streets and looked In shop windows.
Slowly I was learning the ways of the city. Sometimes people from our village came to the hostel. They brought the news. When people went home, I gave them money for the family. We do not use letters. We cannot write.

One night in January this year my whole life changed. I was sitting in the room at the hostel. All five of us were there. We were talking and cooking. The radio was playing. I was fixing my shoes. Suddenly I heard over the radio the name of our village – Bhamganoma. My hands stopped working. Everybody stopped talking.

Created by Readiris, Copyright IRIS 2005

Many people lost their houses

The voice from the radio said a storm hit our village. The voice said people died in our village. I could not speak. My body was hot, then cold. Then I knew I must go home.

I went to work the next morning. I went to see my boss. We call him “Zibukwane”. This means “Spectacles” in English. I told him what happened at Bhamganoma. I told him I was scared that my family was dead.

“Spectacles” got angry when he heard my troubles. Maybe he could not understand because my English is not so good. “It’s nothing to do with us,” he said. “I don’t really care. If you want to leave, then leave. But don’t come back.”

Then Spectacles paid me R30 and told me to go away. I asked for my blue card. I did not get it. I asked for my notice pay. I did not get it.

I stood there looking at Spectacles. He looks after animals. But he doesn’t want to look after people. Maybe he only likes animals. Then I walked away from him.

We hired a car with the R30. We took messages and money from many people. We travelled north to Bhamganoma. The roads were full of dirt and stones. Sometimes we had to move broken trees out of the road.

When we got to the Umfolozi river, we stopped and looked. The bridge over the river was broken. We just sat there in the car. We looked at the broken bridge. And we watched the brown, muddy water of the Umfolozi.

Created by Readiris, Copyright IRIS 2005

Many bridges were broken

Nobody spoke. We knew we could not get home. Then we slowly turned the car around. We drove back to the Kwa-Mashu hostel.

I heard that all the bridges were broken. People from the village coutd not bring any news about my family. I felt helpless and alone.

Created by Readiris, Copyright IRIS 2005For the first time, I wished I knew how to read and write. I wanted to send a letter home. And I wished someone at home could write to me.

I had no money left. I could not pay the hostel rent. So I left the hostel. I went to stay with a friend.

My troubles made me feel sick. I walked to the city. I did not know what to do. I just started talking to strangers. Then I spoke to a middle aged woman. I told her how I got fired. And I told her about my problems at home.

This woman listened. Then she said she could help. She told me of an organization that helps workers. She said the organization could help me.

I went to this place. It is called the African Workers Association. They took me to a lawyer. The lawyer listened to my story and sent a letter to the animal hospital. So now I wait to hear from the lawyer.

I have not gone home yet. People say that all of my family are dead.

But I do not know. At night I dream of angels and brown water. Maybe the angels are my children. As soon as I have enough money, I will go home. I haven’t seen my wife for two years. I must know If she is alive or dead. I want to go home.”

A mother for many

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Zora Mehlomakulu of the General Workers Union

Thandisizwe Mehlomakulu is play­ing on the floor. His mother, Zora Mehlomakulu, is sitting at her desk. The office around her is not very tidy and her scarf is slipping off. Zora’s eyes are sleepy while she talks.

Many workers in Cape Town think of Zora as a mother. And the bosses know that they must be careful when Zora Mehlomakulu is around. Zora is an organiser for the General Workers Union.

Zora is not only a mother to the workers. Zora has two children of her own, Nosizwe and Thandisizwe. Learn and Teach spoke to Zora. We asked Zora if she found work in the union hard, especially as a mother and a woman.

“A NO – CHANCE BUSINESS”
“I don’t think that I have found work­ing as a woman in the union difficult,” said Zora.” But when I started in the unions, I had big problems. I was only twenty years old.

“I had problems at home. My father did not want me to work in the unions. He thought that politics was a no-chance business. He wanted me to be a teacher, not a union organiser.

“When the people first asked me to join the union, I did not even know if there was an office. I thought that maybe they met in the veld. I only knew the name of the union — the Commercial and Distributive Work­ers Union.

“I got a big surprise. The union had an office. It was in Queen Victoria Street, in Cape Town.

EXTRA CAREFUL, EXTRA HARD
“The workers wanted the women in the union to wear two-piece suits and high-heeled shoes. They said we must look smart and respectable. I am not a smart and respectable per­son. I found dressing like this very uncomfortable.

“The biggest problem was my age. The workers thought that I was too young. I had to work extra hard and be extra careful to win their trust. I also had to behave like a leader. I could not do what other young people did, especially in those days.

“It was a bad time for the unions. The union belonged to Sactu. Many peo­ple in Sactu were arrested .Soon all the Sactu unions were working as one. There were not enough people to do the work.”

In 1964 Sactu decided that they couldn’t work in the open any more. Many Sactu people left the country and many were in jail. And some, like Zora Mehlomakulu, quietly waited for the workers to rise again.

HARD TIMES
In 1971 many of the old trade unionists came together. They talked about starting a new union. Zora tells us about it.

“We decided to start an advice office and not a union. The Minister of Labour was hard on unions at that time because the workers were still weak. The government wanted committees for the workers — not unions.

“When the Western Province Workers Advice Office started, we had nothing. We even borrowed a desk and a chair. Times were hard. The workers were scared. They thought unions led to trouble. The bosses were hard too. They used to throw us out — or call the police.

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Zora with her son, Thandisizwe

A FINE HUSBAND CALLED FRANK
“In the meantime, I was married to my husband, Frank. Poor Frank soon got used to me going out at night to meetings. The workers used to come to our house at any time with their problems. Sometimes we held meet­ings at the house.

“But Frank has always been under­standing. Without Frank we would live in a big mess and we would never eat properly. When I work late, Frank looks after the children. Frank only gets cross sometimes — when I am away too much.

“I looked after the children during the day. Now they are at school. People used to think that it was difficult with the children at work, but it wasn’t. In fact, when we first started to organise, the children made things easier.

LEAFLETS IN THE BLANKET
“When Nosizwe, my first born, was three months old, we were busy organising in the docks. Now, you know that you are not allowed to give out leaflets in the docks. So I used to put Nosizwe on my back. Then I tucked all the leaflets into her blanket.

“No-one at the gate ever looked at me until one terrible day. Just as I got to the gates, Nosizwe started to scream. She shook all the blankets. The leaflets flew all over the place.

“The men at the gate came to see what these pamphlets were all about. They were very shocked. Those men thought I was an old woman, coming to do cleaning jobs. They refused to let me through the gates that day. And afterwards I was extra careful at the docks.

“The children always made it easier to get into factories. Even after Thandisizwe was born, I used to take him with me. I would go to factories with him on my back. At the gates, I used to say: ‘My husband works here and I have come with the sick child.’

“The foreman would show me where to go. Then I would choose any ‘husband’ to be Thandisizwe’s father. I would talk my business with that man, saying that there was a meeting or this and that. And then the foreman would show me out.

CAUGHT SHORT AT DORMAN LONG
“Once I was caught at the Dorman Long factory. I went in, as always, looking for my ‘husband’. I went to a room at the back. Then I started a meeting. Suddenly I noticed all the workers looking very hard behind me. I could see in their faces that they wanted to tell me something.

“The boss had got in quietly while I was talking. But he did not under­stand me because I was talking in Xhosa. So I said in English: “Not everyone has paid for the hats I knitted. I want my money now”

“But the boss knew that I was lying. Someone was waiting for me out­side. She had told the boss I was looking for my cousin. So he threw me out.

“Later when we had more members at Dorman Long, we had a meeting with the bosses. I had long forgotten how they threw me out. But when that boss saw me, he got angry again. He made the union say that we were sorry for telling lies.

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Zora Mehlomakulu does not work in the tidiest office in the world but who would dare to tell her?

GROWING WITH THE CHILDREN
“Things are very different in the union and at home now. My children have grown. They are both at school — except Thandisizwe. He still likes to come to the union and not go to school. Sometimes he creeps into the taxi behind me. When I see him, it is too late to stop the taxi. That is why he is here today.

“The union, like the children, has also grown. We don’t have to lie to get into factories anymore. We don’t have to go and look for workers to join the union anymore. So many workers come to us now. The union is strong, like the children.

Life on the farms

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Mr Jongilanga and his family

Mr Jongilanga and his family live and work on a farm in the Eastern Trans­vaal. The story of their lives is terrible. But their story is not different from the story of thousands of farm workers in South Africa.

“We were born on the farms,” Mr Jon­gilanga told Learn and Teach. “And we work here on the farms. One day we will die on the farms. Our lives are very heavy.

“We work for six months for a place to stay. In those six months we get ten rand a month and thirty bags of mealies. For the second six months we get twenty rand a month and noth­ing else.”

‘MONEY FOR TOBACCO ONLY’

‘That money buys you tobacco to smoke — and maybe one candle. Long before the end of the month, your money is finished and you have to borrow money. At the end of the month, you pay what you owe. The next month you are very bankrupt and you have nothing in your pocket.

“We cannot leave this place because we are caught by debts. When your child gets sick, you borrow money from the farmer to take your child to the doctor. You borrow money until you owe too much. Then you must pay the farmer before you can leave, but you can never pay all the money that you owe.

Here we work for something that is not there. We have no leave, not even at the end of the year. There is no bo­nus. And you cannot leave and work outside, at another place, not even when you have finished your six months for a place to stay.”

NO PAY FOR SUNDAY WORK

“We work from half past seven to five o’clock. On Saturdays we knock off at one o’clock. Sometimes we work on Sundays too. But we get no extra pay for that.

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A farmer watches over his workers

“My wife does the washing at the farmer’s house on Mondays, Tues­days and Fridays. The farmer pays her one rand for that. But she cannot refuse because we live on the farm.”

FIFTY CENTS FOR CHILDREN

“Even the children work on the farm. By 2 o’clock the children must be in the fields. If they work the whole day, they get fifty cents. And if they work af­ter school, they only get twenty five cents.

“Many of the children run away from the farms because there is no future for them. In the towns they get more money. People who have no children in town really suffer. If we had no chil­dren in Johannesburg, we would be dead.”

NO UNITY

“No union has tried to help us. The farmers do not want unions here. If you try to have a meeting here on the farm, some people will say, “What are you doing? You are making big trou­ble.” And then they go straight to the farmer and tell him what you are saying.

“Those people are impimpis. But how can we try to make things better on the farm if there is no unity?”

THE RIGHTS OF FARM WORKERS

Learn and Teach spoke to a lawyer. We wanted to know what rights farm wor­kers have. The lawyer said there are very few laws to protect farm workers.

The law does not say how much farm workers must get paid. The law says nothing about holidays, leave or sick leave. It says nothing about sick pay and hours of work. The law does not even give farm workers public holidays.

Farm workers do not have many rights. But they do have some rights:

* They have rights under common law. Common law is the law from long ago. It comes from the old teachers and books — and it comes from old customs.
* Farm workers also have rights when they make a contract or agreement with the farmer.
* Farmworkers can get money from the Workmen’s Compensation Fund when they get hurt at work.
* Farmworkers can also get a pen­sion from the government when they are too old to work.

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An old farmworker with his son

RIGHTS UNDER COMMON LAW

WAGES

The farmer can pay you whatever he likes. But he cannot take money off your wages if you break something or lose something, like a cow. If the farm­er wants to take money off your wages, he must prove in court how much you owe him.

A farmer cannot force you to work for him if you owe him money. And he cannot force you to buy from his shop and then take this money from your wages.

NOTICE

The law says the farmer can fire you when he wants to. But he must warn you first. If he pays you every week, he must tell you a week before you must leave. If he pays you every month, he must give you a month’s notice.

If the farmer wants you to leave straight away, he must give you notice pay. If the farmer pays you every week, he must give you a week’s wages. If he pays you every month, he must give you a month’s wages.

If you are living on the farm and the farmer says you must leave, he must give you notice. He must give you at least one month’s notice.

The farmer must tell the Commission­er in your area if he wants you to leave his farm. And you must tell the Com­missioner your story. If you have no­where to go, you can ask the Commissioner to help you to find a place to live and to work.

HOUSING

If the farmer agreed to give you a house, he must give you a good house. It must not make you and your family sick. There must be a toilet near the house. And there must be water close by.

Your house must not be hear where the farmer keeps his animals. And it must not be near rubbish or drains. These things can make you sick.

BEATINGS

No farmer can beat his workers. If the must tell you what kind of work you must do. He must tell you how many hours you must work.

The farmer should make a separate agreement with every son you have who is older than fifteen years and who works on the farm.

The farmer cannot force you to move to another farm with him unless you agree to move. And the farmer cannot make you work for another farmer. You should make a new contract with each farmer.

If the farmer does not give you what he has promised, the farmer is breaking the contract. If the farmer breaks the contract, he must pay you for the work you have done. If the farmer refuses to pay you, you must find a lawyer to help you get your money.

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A farmworker carries a heavy load

CONTRACT WORKERS FROM THE HOMELANDS

If you sign a contract in the homelands to work on the farms, be sure that you know and understand what your con­tract says. Ask the clerk at the Labour Office to read the contract to you be­fore you sign it.

MONEY FROM THE GOVERNMENT
PENSIONS

When you turn sixty years old if you are a woman, or sixty five if you are a man, you can get a pension. You must ask for your pension at the Commis­sioner’s office in the closest town.

WORKMEN’S COMPENSATION

The Workmen’s Compensation Fund is money to help workers who have ac­cidents at work. Farm workers can get money from this Fund. If you have an accident at work, and you hurt your­self, the farmer must write to the Work­men’s Compensation Commissioner in Pretoria.

The law says the farmer must do this. You must also see a doctor who must send his report on you to the Work­men’s Compensation Commissioner.

Workmen’s Compensation will pay you money if:

— you cannot work for more than three days because of your ac­cident.
— you lose part of your body in an accident, like your finger or your arm.
— a worker is killed in an accident, then their family will get money. The Commissioner will also give money to pay for the funeral of a worker who was killed in an ac­cident.
— you get a sickness from the work that you do on the farm. But this is very difficult to prove.

The farmer must take you to hospital and he must pay for your treatment — even if you get treatment for two years after the accident. He will get this money back from the Workmen’s Compensation Fund. He cannot take this money off your wages.

If you have had an accident, and you have no money because of the acci­dent, you can ask the Commissioner to give you money until you get your Workmen’s Compensation money.

If you get money from the Workmen’s Compenastion, then YOU must get that money, not the farmer.

FARM WORKERS AND PASSES

On July 1 this year, the government said that people did not have to carry passes anymore. Everyone — except people from Venda, Ciskei, Transkei and Bophuthatswana — must get a South African Identity Book.

People will no longer have to get stamps in these books to show where they work. This means that farm wor­kers do not have to work on farms only. Now farm workers can look for work in town. But the big problem is finding a place to live.

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A mother and her child at work

FIGHTING FOR YOUR RIGHTS

We know that it is very difficult for farmworkers to fight for their rights. But you are stronger if you know what your rights are. Speak to the other farm workers. And speak to the farmer. Maybe you can make things better for yourselves and your families.

But the government must make laws that protect farm workers. They must have laws to protect them, just like fac­tory workers. Until the government does this, there will always be farmers who treat their workers badly.

HELP FOR FARM WORKERS

The Food and Allied Workers Union (FAWU) has started a Farm Workers Project. They want to help farm wor­kers. And they want farm workers to join their union. You can talk to any branch of the Food and Allied Workers Union. But if you do not know where to find them, you can write to their head office.

Domestic workers unite

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On 28 November last year, there was a big meeting in Cape Town. People came from all over South Africa. They were all domestic workers. They came together to talk about starting a new union for domestic workers.

The East London Domestic Workers Union and the Port Elizabeth Domes­tic Workers Union came. The National Domestic Workers Union from Natal and the Domestic Workers Union from Cape Town were there. And the South African Domestic Workers Association from Johannesburg also drove all the way to Cape Town.

It was easy to find the meeting because you could hear people singing from a long way off. But people did not come together just to sing. They came to the meeting as five different unions but they wanted to leave the meeting as one, new union.

A TRIP TO PRETORIA

Sasha, a worker from SADWA — the South African Domestic Workers Association spoke first. He spoke about how the different unions came together.

“For a long time we worked separate­ly,” said Sasha. “Then in 1984 we met in Johannesburg to talk about laws to help domestic workers. We all chose people to go and talk to the Minister of Manpower.

“People went to Pretoria and saw the Minister. We are still waiting for the Minister to make laws to help domestic workers. But we did not go to Pretoria for nothing. Since that time, we worked together. And that is how we came to be at this meeting today.

A NEW NAME AND A COMMITTEE

When Sasha finished talking, people started the real business. They spoke about a name for the new union. Everyone agreed — SADWU — the South African Domestic Workers Union.

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People at the SADWU meeting, voting for their new president

Then they chose people for the executive committee. Florrie de Villiers was chosen as the secretary and Violet Motlhasedi was made the President. Everyone clapped to show that they were proud of their new leaders.

SADWU’S WORK

People spoke about what they thought SADWU must do. Eunice Baleka of Cape Town spoke about the money that domestic workers earn. Everyone agreed that they get too little money. They all said SADWU must fight so that domestic workers do not get less than R200 a month.

Then Agnes Vilikazi of Johannesburg spoke. She said, “We do not get nice ‘offs’. We don’t get weekends and holidays off. This is not right.

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A domestic worker at a park in Johannesburg

“And there is overtime,” Agnes went on. “When there are visitors, you work late. And if your employers go out, you stay late to look after the children. They come home at one o’clock or two o’clock in the morning. Then it’s Thank you, nanny’ but they don’t pay you overtime.”

Every one at the meeting agreed that domestic workers must get overtime pay. And if domestic workers are sick, they must get sick leave. And they must get pensions and maternity leave. These are the rights that SADWU will fight for.

THE END OF THE MEETING

People talked late into the night. They were still talking the next day. But by lunch time the meeting was over. People knew they must leave to get back to work in good time.

People were happy when they left. They had done what they wanted to do — they were all leaving as members of the same union — SADWU.

Untitled0-7VIOLET MOTLHASEDI — PRESIDENT OF SADWU

Not long after the meeting, Learn and Teach went to the new SADWU offices in Johannesburg. We wanted to talk to Violet Motlhasedi, the new president. We wanted to know more about the small, thin woman we saw at the SADWU meeting in Cape Town.

Violet was not at the offices. She was at work. The people at the offices told us to come back on Thursday – Violet’s day off and the day that she comes to the office.

So we went back on Thursday. Violet was late because there was no trans­port into town. She smiled when we asked her to talk to us.

NO DIFFERENT TO OTHER PEOPLE

We asked Violet to tell us about herself. Violet laughed. She said, “But I am no different to other domes­tic workers. My home is in Zeerust. I finished Std 6 at school but then I wanted to come and work in Johannesburg, like my friends.

“I came to Johannesburg in 1970. I remember my first job — I got R8 a month and my employer screamed at me all the time. I thought that if you were a domestic worker, it was normal for your employer to shout. So I never got angry. But I only stayed there for three months.

“I am very happy where I work now. I have worked there for ten years. My ‘madam’ is well-trained and my husband lives with me. But my daugh­ter lives with my sister in Zeerust. She doesn’t know me well and that makes my heart sore.”

PRESIDENT VIOLET

Learn and Teach asked Violet how she felt about being the President of SADWU. “I was very upset when I heard I was the President,” Violet said. “I didn’t know what it meant. To me a president is P.W. Botha or Mangope and I didn’t want to be like them. I also thought that I must leave my job to work in the office.

“But now I feel better. I think it is very important that I still do domestic work. If I talk to an employer, she cannot turn around and say I don’t know what I am saying. I know because I am a domestic worker myself.”

WORKING FOR SADWU

“I come to the SADWU offices every Thursday. Everyone on the SADWU committee tries to do this. It helps us to know what is happening in the office. But if there is a problem, or we are planning something special, then I come in at weekends too.

“Sometimes my husband is very unhappy about me spending so much time at the SADWU offices. It is difficult, working at my job, working for the union and trying to keep him happy. But my work for the union is very important for me.

“I was a member of SADWA before. In fact, I was on the executive committee of SADWA. And before SADWA started I used to work with DWEP — the Domestic Workers and Employers Project. I taught people to sew at one of their centres.”

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Domestic workers learn to sew at a DWEP centre

ORGANISING DOMESTIC WORKERS

“I think it is very important for domes­tic workers to join a union. And I think it is very important that all the unions have come together. It makes us stronger. And if we are stronger, then we can fight for our rights better.

“It is very difficult organising domestic workers because domestic workers work alone. SADWU hopes to start street committees. We will try to get domestic workers in one street to join SADWU. Then we will go onto the next street and so on.

“We also think that street committees will help people. If there is a bad employer in the street, everyone will know about them. They will know not go to work for them.”

DOMESTIC WORKERS MUST BE PROUD

Violet told us that she had one last thing she wanted to say before we left. “Many domestic workers think they are not as good as other people,” Violet said. “They put themselves down. I al­ways did that. If people asked me where I worked, I told them I worked at the shops.

“But now I feel proud to be a domestic worker. And I know that I am as good as anyone else. I know my job well. I can bake and sew and look after a house. I hope that SADWU, will make all domestic workers feel proud — proud of themselves and proud of their work”

Dancing for freedom

Created by Readiris, Copyright IRIS 2005

The man’s body twists and jives like a snake. Sweat shines on his face. He holds his clenched fist high in the air. His shoes go c1ickety clack all through the dance. And he sings – in time to the tapping of his shoes.

Then the tap dancer stops. He sits down. The workers shout” Amandla”, Someone gets up to make a speech. And the workers’ meeting goes on.

The man’s name is Baazner Moloi. He is a song and dance man. And he sings and dances for the workers in his trade union.

Baazner also works in a big factory every day. So he knows about the lives and daily struggles of workers.

He knows they need more rights. He knows workers want more freedom. And he knows that after work each day workers need something else. They need a chance to keep their souls alive.

“We need to laugh and be happy,” says Baazner. “Song and dance helps us to forget our troubles for a while. But it also makes us brave. It brings us together and makes us strong.”

So at the meetings of his union Baazner dances. He dances so the workers can laugh and be happy together. And he dances so they will be strong when they stand up and fight for their rights.

Baazner’s union is called the Chemical and Industrial Workers Union. Today it is fighting for a better life for the workers of this country. Baazner is one of the worker leaders in this union.

So Baazner Moloi is many things. He is a factory worker. He is a fighter. He is a worker leader. And he is just an ordinary guy who loves to sing and dance. This is his story.

Created by Readiris, Copyright IRIS 2005

EYES OF A FIGHTER, EARS OF A DANCER

Nearly 40 years ago, Baazner Moloi was born in Moroka township. People called the place “Emasakeni”. It was a good name for the place. People lived in shacks made of tin and old sacks.

Baazner does not remember Emasakeni. But the young boy’s eyes saw the suffering of the people. And they did not forget.

Baazner’s father was poor. But he loved his son very much. He didn’t want Baazner to live in a place where babies died like flies. So he took the boy to his grandmother’s place. She lived in a place people still call Kofifi – the peoples’ name for Sophiatown.

People were poor in Sophiatown. But it wasn’t as bad as Emasakeni. And the place was always alive with music, song and dance. Some people say South African jazz was born in Kofifi.

Baazner was still too young to remember Sophiatown. But his ears heard the song and music of the people. And they did not forget. The sound of Kofifi stayed in his blood.

Then Baazner’s father got a job in Germiston. So he moved everyone ­ his wife, his kids and the old granny. They moved to a house in the old location near Germiston. That’s where Baazner began to sing and dance. And that’s where he began to fight for his rights.

JIVING ON THE OUTSIDE

Baazner’s mother was a very strict Christian. She sent the boy to Sunday school. The teachers noticed two things about Baazner. He was very naughty. And he loved to sing. He had the best voice’ in the singing class.

Baazner remembers his first big fight at primary school. The boy knew his parents were poor. And he didn’t know why his father had to pay for the teacher’s wages. So one day he marched into the headmaster’s office and said, “Give me back my school fees.”

Baazner didn’t get the money. And he didn’t stay long at that school. From then on he spent very little time in the classrooms. One day Baazner’s father even sent the blackjacks to find the boy and take him to school.

But Baazner did not listen. He only had ears for the music he loved. At night he went to the township dance halls with his many friends. Together they crept around in the dark outside the halls. They looked in through the windows.

Inside big and famous bands made music for the people – bands like the Inkspots and the Bogart Brothers, And inside the people jumped and jived to the great old sounds – the sounds that made them feel alive.

Outside the small boys sang and danced. They jived like the people in­ side. And nobody jived like Baazner – inside or outside.

Baazner and his friends had another great love – the movies. They loved the American movies about tap dancers best of all. So they put the caps of beer bottles under their shoes. When they danced they made their own c1ickety clack music. And nobody could clickety clack like Baazner Moloi.

THE ACE MONKEY JIVER

The people of old Germiston Location were poor. They called the place “Dukathole – a lost sheep”. But they liked their home. The white factories were nearby. Bus fares were not much. And the place was a little like Sophiatown – it had some life in it.

But the whites wanted their town to be white – pure white. So the government moved the people of Dukathole to a new township called Katlehong.

Soon after that Baazner’s father gave up trying to educate his son. He said: “OK, don’t go to school. Go and find a job.” That’s when Baazner decided to go back to school.

His father sent him to a boarding school in Standerton. Baazner hated it. But one thing kept him there ­ the school had a band. They played jazz and called themselves the “Soul Souvenirs” .

The band soon heard about the new boy. “They heard I was from the Reef,” says Baazner. “And they saw I was a top jiver. So they asked me to dance at their shows.

“We travelled to all the towns around Standerton. Before the show we put up posters. The posters told people to “Come and see the Soul Souvenirs and Baazner Moloi – the Ace Monkey Jiver from the Reef.”

The people crowded into the shows and Baazner became famous – in those small towns. They were good days for a song and dance man like Baazner Moloi.

So the young Baazner didn’t fight much. He only gave the teachers a headache every now and then. But after he finished standard eight things changed. It was time to go home, to find work – and to begin fighting again.

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Baazner and his friends – for them overtime was jive time

THE IMPIMPI GETS A KLAP

Baazner found many jobs after school. But he didn’t stay long in most of them. “I hated bosses. I hated the way they swore at us. I hated the low wages they paid us,” says Baazner. “And in life, I believe in one thing. If someone treats me badly, then I fight back.”

Baazners first job was In a fruit and vegetable shop. He wasn’t in the job for long before he asked for more money. “What?” screamed the owner. “All day you eat my bananas. You eat my tomatoes. Now.you want more money. Sukal”

So Baazner went looking for other jobs – mostly in the big metal and chemical factories on the East Rand.

His best friend was a guy with a nice name – Goodman. The two friends always looked for jobs together. Baazner and Goodman didn’t know about trade unions in those days. But if they didn’t like a factory then the two friends stood together. They fought for their rights.

And after work each day they tried to forget their troubles. So they filled their souls with booze. And they jived – late into the night.

“Many shebeens had dancing competitions,” says Baazner. “The winner always got free beers. So I became a boozer. I couldn’t help it.”

One day a boss told Goodman and Baazner to work overtime. The friends didn’t like this. For them overtime was jive time. So they got the other workers together and said “if we all stand together and say no together, then the bosses cannot make us work overtime.”

The workers agreed. They said,” We are brothers in this together.” But one worker was not a brother. His name was Sam. He told the bosses about the plans of Goodman and Baazner.

The next day Baazner told his brothers to watch him. He walked up to Sam’s desk. He jumped over it. And he gave Sam a loud klap. “Sam screamed so loud,” says Baazner. “A supervisor came running to help him. So I klapped the supervisor too.”

Baazner and Goodman didn’t stay long in that job. Baazner found that his style of fighting didn’t help so much. He didn’t win many fights. And most times he just got fired. He had no power behind him when he fought the bosses.

Then something happened that changed Baazner’s life. He got a job at a big glass factory. And at this factory he found two things – a trade union and a friend called Ronald Mofokeng.

THE FIGHTER FINDS HIS GLOVES

Ronald Mofokeng was a fighter of a different kind. He was a worker leader in the trade union at Plate Glass. And he knew a few tricks about making workers strong in their struggle.

Ronald saw that Baazner was a fighter too. But he knew that all fighters need some training. So he spoke to Baazner for many long hours.

Ronald explained the meaning of the word “organize”. He told Baazner that fighters must work hard. He said worker leaders must call many meetings of workers. They must explain how workers can use trade unions to fight their problems.

And above all he told Baazner to listen to the voice of the workers. He told Baazner to fight the way the workers told him to fight. If worker leaders do this, said Ronald, then they will have power behind them – the power of the workers.

Baazner heard these words. And he understood them well. “The union fitted me like a glove,” says Baazner. “It showed me the way to fight for the rights of workers – and win.”

After three months the workers elected Baazner to be a shopsteward – a worker leader in the factory. This time the fighter didn’t get fired. He had the workers behind him. He still works in the same factory today.

“Every day workers crowd into my office to talk about their problems,” says Baazner. “And the bosses can’t do much about it. So they just call my office ‘Soweto’.”

UNION TIME IS DANCE TIME

“The union took up a lot of time,” says Baazner. “After work we had many meetings with workers. Many times we worked until 3 o’clock in the morning.”

“I didn’t do much dancing for a while. But then I saw that workers were beginning to make plays. And some workers came together in choirs ­ to sing worker songs.

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Baazner knew that workers were doing these things to keep their souls alive. So he said “Now – its time to dance”. He went out and bought a pair of tap dancing shoes. He began to dance again. And his shoes began to make the old clickety clack music again. Sometimes in the shebeens but mostly at his union meetings.

And when Baazner dances in the meetings he also sings. But he doesn’t use funny songs that mean nothing to workers. He sings about the problems of workers. He sings words that make the workers brave. And he sings about something else, something special – a little bit of freedom.

Moss Mayekiso – Worker Leader

Last week Moses Mayekiso was chosen as the general secretary of all MAWU — the Metal and Allied Workers’ Union. So Learn and Teach went down to the MAWU offices to talk to him. We wanted to meet this important man.

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When we got to the MAWU offices, we found many people waiting — everyone wanted to talk to Moses, or Moss, as his friends call him. While we were waiting, we spoke to a  woman who was busy typing.

We wanted to ask her about Moss. But when she told us her name, we felt shy. She was Khola Mayekiso — Moss’s wife. But Khola was happy to talk to us. She also works at M AWU.

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Khola Mayekiso – always at Moss’ side

LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT

 

“I first met Moss in 1982,” Khola says. “We were both at Queenstown station in the Eastern Cape. I was on my way to Burghersdorp. Moss was going home to Joburg.

“I saw that he liked me. When I went to the waiting room, he gave me the seat next to him. Then we began to talk, just about simple things like my work, and his work and so on.

“On the train, he asked me to be his girlfriend. I said “Yes”. So we agreed to write to each other. Not long after this, Moss asked me to come to Johannesburg.

“When I came, he asked me to marry him. I loved him very much but I wanted to tell my parents. Moss did not let me go home. We got married that weekend.”

Just then Khola stopped talking. We looked up and there was Moss. We felt we were doing something wrong — talking about him. We were surprised to meet Moss. He is not like an important person at all. In fact, Moss is a very shy person.

EARLY LIFE

“I was born in Cala, in the Transkei on 21 November 1948,” said Moss. “My family was very poor. My father worked in Cape Town for very little money. We needed every cent he got. Then he lost his job.

“We did not know what to do. My mother and I started to help other people in their fields. Then they shared their crops with us. This food had to last us for 3 or 4 months.

WE LOSE OUR GOATS

“Later my mother bought two goats. They had babies and by 1964, we had 120 goats. Life was easier. But then Matanzima said we must move. And we had to sell our goats. Soon we were poor again.

“I was the eldest in the family — I have 7 brothers and 2 sisters. So I left school for two years to work. But I went back to school and I finished my matric.”

WORKING

Like many young men from the Transkei, Moss went to work on the mines. “I worked on a mine in the Free State,” Moss told us. “I hated it. I saw so many accidents while I was there. But after three months I broke my contract and left the mine.

“In 1976 I got a job at the Toyota Marketing Company in Wynberg. We were not happy there. There was a liason committee. But the workers did not like this committee at all. It did not help us.

THE UNION — A POLITICAL THING

“Someone told us about a union. I did not know anything about unions. I heard doctors and lawyers were helping workers at this union. So we went to the union office. We liked what we heard — the union sounded like a political thing.

“In those days we had to hide from the police and the bosses. We worked in small groups and we had meetings in the bush. In 1978 many Toyota workers joined Mawu.

“The Toyota bosses did not want to talk to the union. We had three strikes at Toyota before they met with MAWU. I lost my job because of the strikes — so did the other shop stewards.

I’M A UNION MAN, NOW!

“While I was looking for another job, I used to help in the union offices. Then Mawu asked me to work for the union fulltime,” Moss said. “MAWU was small when I started. There were only 6 000 members.

“My job was to organise workers on the East Rand. But I did not know how to do this. So I asked all the shopstewards on the East Rand to help.

MAWU HERE, THERE AND EVERYWHERE

“They helped a lot. Wherever they went, they spoke about the union, at lunch, on the trains, in the shebeens, everywhere. Soon we had a big problem. So many workers came to the union offices, we could not help them. So we started a new office in Katlehong, just for the East Rand workers.

“1980 and 1981 were bad years. I was working in Katlehong. Sometimes we had five strikes a day. Workers were angry about their wages and their working conditions. They were angry that the bosses did not want to talk to the union. The union grew and grew. And I worked day and night.

UNION WORK IS HARD

“Working for a union is not easy. When I was working so hard, my wife started to complain. I was never at home. I did not see my children. Then my wife and I started to fight. In the end, we separated. Now I’m married again. Khola understands because she also works for the union.

“I have also lost some very good friends because of their union work — people like Neil Agget and Andries Raditsela. Their deaths upset me very much. But it also makes you stronger — you feel that you must work even harder so that they did not die for nothing.”

OUR LIVES DO NOT END IN THE FACTORY

If you think that Moss is only a union man, you are wrong. Moss and Khola are both on the Alexandra Action Committee (AAC). Moss says, “There are many problems in Alex. And the young people of Alex wanted to do something. We felt we could help because of our union work.”

“So last year in December, we started the Alexandra Action Committee. We started by having small house meetings. Then we had street meetings. We started a committee in every yard, street, or block we went to. We wanted people to solve their own problems together.

MEN IN BALACLAVAS

“I think the committees helped when the big trouble started in Alex this year. We called people to a big meeting to try and bring peace back to the township,” said Moss. But Moss was not there. He was in detention.

Workers were very angry when Moss was detained. Hundreds of workers stopped working for half an hour to protest about his detention. Moss was in jail for two weeks, together with other people from Alex.

When Moss got out of jail, things in Alex were quiet. But the peace did not last for a long time. In one night ten houses were burnt down and two people were killed.

“We believe the police did this,” says Moss. “The men who attacked the houses wore police clothes and police boots — their faces were covered with balaclavas. People also saw casspirs near the homes that were burnt.

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Buyisa Mayekiso – lucky to be with her grandmother when their house was petrol bombed

‘My house was also petrol-bombed. We were lucky. Khola and I were at a union meeting and our baby was with my mother — otherwise I wouldn’t be talking to you today. Even now, we never go home — we know there are people that want to kill us. We sleep at friends’ homes — but we don’t like to sleep at the same place too often.”

WHERE TO NOW?

We asked Moss how he sees the future. “I don’t know” said Moss. “When I first joined the union, I thought the struggle was against whites. But I was wrong. Now I think the workers must struggle against their bosses and the government.

“People must come together in organisations. But the leaders must do what their members say. I think everyone must work together, but I think that the workers must lead.”

The new workers’ rights law

The government has made an important new law for workers. The new law is called the Basic Conditions of Employment Act. The law started on the 1st June 1983.

This new law gives certain rights to shop workers, factory workers and office workers. This law also gives rights to hospital and other health workers, hotel workers, delivery workers, security guards and nightwatchmen. A boss cannot give these workers less than the new law says. He can only give them more.

The new law does not give any rights to farm workers and domestic workers. The government has still not given these workers any rights. And this new law does not talk about government workers. Government workers have certain rights under special laws. Learn and Teach will write about these laws later this year.

Many workers already have. rights under other laws. For example: Mine workers have some rights under a law called the Mines and Works Act. And many other workers already have rights under other laws called Industrial Council Agreements and Wage Determinations. But lawyers think all these workers can’t get less than the new law says. They can only get a better deal. And the new law gives workers rights they don’t have already under these other laws.

The new law does not make many changes for office, shop and factory workers. But there are some important changes. Shop and office workers can now work more overtime. 8efore shop workers could only work 30 hours overtime a year. And office workers could only work 100 hours overtime a year. Now all workers can work 10 hours overtime a week. And under the new law women can now work the same overtime as men. Is this a good or a bad thing?

And now when a boss fires a worker, he must say so in writing. A worker’s notice won’t start until the worker gets a letter. The new law also says children under 15 years of age cannot wprk. And for the first time, security guards and nightwatchmen have some rights.

The new law also says a boss can’t take money from a workers wages when the worker doesn’t do something at work – or when the boss doesn’t like something the worker does. And the boss can’t fire a worker if the worker joins a trade union. If the boss does fire the worker, the boss can get a fine up to R2 000. Or the boss can go to jail for two years. Or the boss can get fined and go to jail. Now read what else the law says:

46 hours a week

You must not work more than 46 hours a week. Lunch breaks and tea breaks are not counted in these 46 hours. They are not counted as working time.

– you work 6 days a week? Then you must not work more than 8 hours a day.
– you work 5 days a week? Then you must not work more than 8 hours a day.
– you work 5 days a week? Then you must not work more than 9 hours a day.

Casual Workers. A casual worker must not work more than 9){‘ hours a day. (A casual worker does not work more than 3 days a week.)
Guards and nightwatchmen: These workers must not work more than 60 hours a week. Meals are counted as working time. Shopworkers: Your boss can ask you to work an extra 15 minutes when you go for lunch or at closing time. He can ask you only when customers are in the shop. But he can’t make you work more than an hour extra altogether in one week.

Created by Readiris, Copyright IRIS 2005Overtime

Maybe you sometimes work more than 46 hours a week. Then you are working overtime. You can’t work more than 10 hours overtime in a week. And you can’t work more than 3 hours overtime on a day.

Workers must agree to work overtime. Some workers agree to work overtime in their contracts. For other workers, the boss must ask them each time to work overtime.

You must get extra money for overtime. The overtime wage is your wage plus one third of your wage. For example: Mandla Xuma earns R 1.20 an hour. One third of R 1.20 is 40 cents. So his overtime wage is R 1.20 plus 40 cents. He must get R 1.60 an hour for overtime

Created by Readiris, Copyright IRIS 2005Sunday Pay

Maybe you work on a Sunday. Then you must get Sunday pay. Sunday pay works this way:

If you work less than 4 hours on a Sunday, you must get a whole day’s pay.
If you work more than 4 hours on a Sunday, you must get 2 day’s pay, or overtime pay and a day off in the next week. Your boss must pay you for this day off.

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Shift work

Some places work all the time. For example: a power station works all the time. These places need workers all day and all night. These places work 7 days a week. They have 3 shifts a day. Each shift is 8 hours long. Workers at these places must not work more than 48 hours a week. Lunch breaks are counted as working time.

If these workers work on Sunday, they must get the same deal as all other workers. Look at the block on Sunday Pay.

Maternity

A pregnant woman must not go to work for the last 4 weeks before the baby is born. And she must not go to work 8 weeks after the baby is born.

A woman can get money when she takes time off for a baby. She gets this money from an ad­ ministration board or Commissioner’s court.

Public holidays

Shop and office workers must get all public holidays. They get 10 public holidays all together. Factory workers only get 6 public holidays. These holidays are:

New Year’s Day / Republic Day / Good Friday / Day of the Vow / Ascension Day / Christmas Day

(Office workers who work in factories get the same public holidays as factory workers.) Workers must get public holidays with full pay. If they work, they must get double wages.

Created by Readiris, Copyright IRIS 2005Sick leave

When you are sick and can’t go to work, you must get paid. You get paid for sick leave.

– you work 6 days a week? Then you can take 12 days sick leave a year.
– you work 5 days a week? Then you can take 10 days sick leave a year.

These days are only for sickness. If you are not sick, you cannot take sick leave. Maybe you are sick for more days than your sick leave. Then your boss ·will not pay you for the extra days. You must get money from the Unemployment Insurance Fund (U.I.F.).

Paid holiday

You must get a paid holiday after you have worked for one year. You must get two weeks paid holiday every year. (This 2 weeks means 10 working days.) Your paid holiday does not count sick leave or public holidays.

When you are sick and can’t go to work, you must get paid. You get paid for sick leave.

– you work 6 days a week? Then you can take 12 days sick leave a year.
– you work 5 days a week? Then you can take 10 days sick leave a year.

These days are only for sickness. If you are not sick, you cannot take sick leave. Maybe you are sick for more days than your sick leave. Then your boss ·will not pay you for the extra days. You must get money from the Unemployment Insurance Fund (U.I.F.).

Some workers must get 3 weeks leave every year. (This 3 weeks means 15 working days). Nightwatchmen and some workers who sell things outside a shop or office must get 3 weeks leave.

Your boss must tell you when to go on leave. But after you have worked for a year, your boss cannot make you wait more than 4 months for leave.

Created by Readiris, Copyright IRIS 2005Notice pay

If you are fired, your boss must give you notice. Your boss must give you a letter saying you are fired. Your notice won’t start until you get this letter. Notice works this way:

– you get paid every week? If you are fired, your boss must let you work for another week. Or he must give you an extra week’s pay.
– you get paid every month? If you are fired, your boss must let your work for 2 more weeks. Or he must give you an extra 2 weeks pay.

When you leave you must also get paid for any holidays you didn’t take. This is called leave pay.