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.

Created by Readiris, Copyright IRIS 2005

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.


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.


Letters from our readers

Dear Learn and Teach
I passed Matric at the end of 1982. My plan is to become a printing machine operator. Please can you tell me the address of the schools or colleges where I can study printing?
Tembile Ntaba

Please write to: Education Information Centre (EICI, 601 Dunwell House, 35 Jorissen Street, Braamfontein, Johannesburg, 2001. – editor

Dear Learn and Teach
I am glad to write this letter to you. Please send me your booklet about Accidents and Sickness at Work. Can you send me something to help security guards. I am a security guard at an engineering firm in Benoni.
George Zwane

Thanks for you letter. We like to hear from our readers. We have sent the booklet on Accidents and Sickness at Work to you in, the post. Please send us SOc for this booklet. There is a new law for workers. This law gives security guards some rights at work. Before security guards had no legal rights. Look at the poster in this magazine. You will see what your rights are. -editor

Dear Learn and Teach
Please do me a favour. I would like you to publish a picture of Peter Tosh.
Sammy Matlou

Thanks for your letter. We will write a story about reggae music later this year. Then we will print a picture of Peter Tosh. -editor

Dear Learn and Teach
Thank you for your letter and the article in your magazine about mea1ie meal. Our company does add vitamins to our mealie meal. We find people do not like to buy mealie meal with vitamins. But we are trying to find ways of selling mealie meal with vitamins. We know that mealie meal with vitamins is very important.
Andy Creswell
Tongaat Foods Limited

Thanks for your letter. Only one other company has answered us. The two biggest companies, Premier Milling and Tiger Oats, don’t seem to care. They haven’t answered our letter. Anyway, we are glad you are thinking of ways to sell mealie meal with vitamins. But please think quickly – the health of the people is suffering in the meantime. -editor

Dear Learn and Teach
I really enjoy reading Learn and Teach. Keep it up! I read your article on mealie meal and pellagra. I saw that Premier Milling makes both ‘Iwisa’ and ‘Impala’ mealie meal. And they do not add the two important vitamins to their mealie meal. I see that Kaizer Chiefs often have ‘Iwisa’ on their jerseys. This means that Premier Milling gives money to Kaizer Chiefs. So Chiefs help this company to sell their ‘Iwisa’ mealie meal. I think we must win Kaizer Chiefs onto our side.

Thank you for your good idea. I’m sure Chiefs can help us in this struggle. They must care about the health of their fans. We will write them a letter. -editor

Dear Learn and Teach
I am teaching English to people in Mozambique. I have used one Learn and Teach magazine. I found it very useful. I understand that I can get old issues free of cost. If this is true I would like eight copies of each. If there is a cost please let me know.

We are glad that our magazine reaches you. We are happy to send you back­ copies of the magazine. But please send us some money. One set of back­ copies cost R2.50. So eight sets will cost R20.00 -editor

Dear Learn and Teach
I often read your magazine. I liked your story about the dangers of liquor. I am a man who doesn’t even take a sip. But my young brother aged 18 is a boozer. He never cares about his future. Are there any books to help him with this problem?

Thanks for your letter and we are sorry to hear about your brother. We don’t have any books on the dangers of drinking. But you can write to: Alcoholics Anonymous Information Office P.O. Box 7228 JOHANNESBURG 2000, Tel: (011) 37 -7870.
They will send you the books you need. -editor

Dear Learn and Teach
I got a copy of Learn and Teach from a friend. I liked it very much. I am interested in the book on Unemployment and the Unemploy­ment Insurance Fund. Please send me one.
Margaret Vena

Hamburguers and the hardest race in the wind

Created by Readiris, Copyright IRIS 2005Sixty two years ago, some guys in Natal had a crazy idea. They decided to start a road race. But they wanted to make the race the hardest race in the world. So they found the biggest hills in the country and made the race 91 kilometres long. They called the race the Comrades Marathon.

Every year, people still run the race. And today, the race is still the hardest in the world. This race makes even the biggest rugby players cry!

So what kind of guy wins this kind of race? For the last three years, a small, gentle, friendly guy has won this race. His name is Bruce Fordyce.

In many ways Bruce Fordyce is like all the rest of us. He likes hamburgers. He likes reggae music. He likes a beer or two. And he likes a good party.

But when Bruce Fordyce runs, he is not like the rest of us. He runs like a true champion. He runs to win.

He was born in a far away place called Hong Kong 27 years ago. When he was very young, he moved from country to country with his parents. In 1969 his parents came back to South Africa. Bruce was 13 years old.

Bruce went to school in Johannesburg. He played some sport. He played a bit of foot­ball and rugby. He ran a bit. But he was no champion.

When Bruce finished school, he went to university. And for the next three years he played no sport at all. He studied a bit. And he sat around with his friends a lot.

Then one day Bruce went to play rugby match at his old school. He was not fit. After the game Bruce didn’t feel so good. He felt like he was going to die.

Created by Readiris, Copyright IRIS 2005Bruce started to think. He decided that dying wasn’t such a good idea. Two weeks later, he saw the Comrades Marathon on television. He liked what he saw. “That’s it!” said Bruce to himself. “I’ve got to start somewhere!.”

So Bruce went for his first run. He ran around the block. But he didn’t get very far. He walked home – and he went straight to bed.

But Bruce did not give up. He ran everyday and he got stronger everyday. A year later, he ran in the Comrades Marathon. He ran very well. He came 43rd. Bruce felt good. Now he wanted to do better.

And he did do better. He came 14th in 1978, third in 1979, and second in 1980. “I never thought I could win the race until I came second,” says Bruce. “But after that race, I still felt so strong. I knew I could win. I suddenly began to believe in myself. I also learned something else. People can do things they don’t think they can do – and more.”

Bruce won the next three Comrades Marathons. And he ran these races in the fastest time ever. Nobody ever thought anybody could run the race so fast.

Bruce is not only a great runner. He also is a guy with lots of style. In 1981 the Com­rades people made the race a special race. They made the race part of the Republic Day celebrations. Bruce did not agree with this. He didn’t understand why anybody wanted to remember Republic Day.

They hated the black armband - but cheered when he won

They hated the black armband – but cheered when he won

Bruce wanted to show the world he was not happy. So he put on a black cloth around his arm .. Before the race, an old friend wanted to hit him. And when he ran, people threw tomatoes at him. They also insulted him.

But Bruce did not care. He ran like the wind. And he won the race in a record time. The people put their tomatoes away. They forgot about their insults. And they went home. What could they say?

Bruce is not scared to speak his mind. “Black and white people run together these days,” says Bruce. “But most black runners still have the same old problems. How can they train properly when they leave for work at 5 o’clock in the morning and come home at 8 o’clock at night?”

Those old guys in Natal must feel surprised. They never thought a guy like Bruce Fordyce would win their hardest race in the world. Just a small, gentle, friendly guy who believes in himself!

The jazz man from third avenue

Created by Readiris, Copyright IRIS 2005Everybody in Alexandra township knows Edmund ‘Ntemi’ Piliso. He is the tall, quiet jazz man from Third Avenue.

Ntemi has been around for a long time. He has made music with the best of them. He has played with big music groups like Zonk and the Harlem Swingsters. And for many years the township jived to Ntemi’s own band, the Alex All Stars.

Today Ntemi plays with the Jazz Pioneers – a group of the old greats who have got together. They are still blowing the old township tunes.

Ntemi Piliso does not talk much. He saves his breath for his saxophone. But Learn and Teach went anyway. And we were in luck. Nterni did not have his saxophone with him.

We asked Ntemi about his life and his music. He sat down. “Okay!” he said. He began to talk in a quiet and gentle voice.


“I was born in Alexandra on the 16th December 1925. My full name is Mthuthuzeli Edmund Piliso. My mother called me Ntemekwana or “Ntemi” for short. People still call me Ntemi today. Not that I mind – I like the name.

“Alex has always been my home. The place has also been my school. I learned music there. Like most kids, I began playing the pennywhistle in the streets.

“After school we loved to watch the movies from America. One day I saw a film that changed my life. The big Glen Miller band from the U.S.A. was in that film. That film made me dream the same dream for weeks. In the dream I saw myself playing a big trombone.

“I forgot about school. I forgot about those little pennywhistles. I longed to playa long, gold trombone. I can say that is how my music began – in my dreams.

Ntemi blowing in the old days

Ntemi blowing in the old days


“Years later I was sitting at home. I was all alone and bored. I heard someone knocking loudly on the door. I opened the door and a guy called Casablanca walked in. He was very excited. He said I must come over to his place. He said now was the time to start our own band.

“And he wasn’t just talking. He had three saxophones, two trumpets and a trombone. Said he bought them in Cape Town. I couldn’t believe my ears.

“I wasted no time. But when I got to his place another guy had the trombone already. So I picked up a saxophone. I’ve never let it go since then.

“Casablanca knew a music teacher at the Catholic School. This guy taught us to read and write music. Soon we were ready to start a band. We called ourselves the Casablanca Ochestra.

“I loved playing in a real band. We had great tunes. But some of the guys were not so serious. So my friend David Sello and I left the band. We wanted to move into the world of real jazz.


“We met a guy called Sam Maile. He was a great writer of jazz music. People called him South Africa’s Duke Ellington. He wrote the music for the famous film ‘Jim Comes to Jo’burg’.

“During the great war, some of our people fought in the army against Hitler. After the war Sam asked some of the soldiers to join a big band. He called the band Zonk.

“Sam Maile was a great guy. He taught me a lot about jazz. I played with Zonk for a short while. But I wanted to move on. The Harlem Swingsters and the Jazz Maniacs were the hottest bands in town. I wanted to join one of them.

“The Harlem Swingsters needed a sax man. They asked me to come and show my skills. I’ll never forget that day man! The great Kippie Moeketsi was there. He just said ‘Play’. And he listened very carefully. I was very scared.

“They asked me to play with them at a concert. The concert was at the Inchcape Hall in Sophiatown. I knew this was my chance. And I played for my life. The great piano player Todd Matshikiza and Kippie said I was okay. And that’s not all. I didn’t have my own sax then. So they went out and bought me one. I knew then that I was in the band – full time.

“I had great times with the Harlem Swingsters. The band was good. We mixed American swing and our own township tunes. We made African Jazz.

Ntemi (left) with two members of the Jazz Pioneers at Kippie's funeral

Ntemi (left) with two members of the Jazz Pioneers at Kippie’s funeral

“We played allover the country. Once we even went to Lourenco Marques in Mozambique. The best shows happened when we played with the Jazz Maniacs. We played from 8 o’clock at night to four in the morning. We took turns to play. We wanted to show who was best. We never beat the Maniacs. But they knew we were not a small group.

“The gangsters were always at our shows. Sometimes they loved us and sometimes they hated us. They arrived at some of the shows at four in the morning – just when we were ready for some sleep. And they said: ‘Play until the sun comes up.’

“No one could do anything. They took our women and danced with them. And we played on sadly. I remember a concert at Moroka. This gang started fighting. Then they took their knives out. I grabbed my sax and ran for my life. I hid in the toilet. When I came back I found a body lying on my saxophone case – full of blood. Our shows were like this all the time. Today’s shows are like Sunday picnics.

The young Ntemi Piliso

The young Ntemi Piliso


“In the early fifties all the big bands began to split up. I left the Swingsters and started my own band – the Alexandra All Stars. We were champions in the township. Even the gangs in Alex didn’t touch us.

“I made many records with the All Stars. My wife Constance had a beautiful voice. She made a record with me. The song was called “Baby come Duze”. That record made thousands of bucks. The record company gave me a paper and told me to sign. And they gave me five pounds. They bought my song for five pounds. That is how it was in those days.

“In 1962 King Kong started. This show went from South Africa to London. I very much wanted to go overseas and study music. But I wasn’t chosen to go with the show.

“I was broken. I felt so down that I didn’t play for a long time. But the Alex All Stars stayed alive. We made a record now and then. But the wish to play with the great jazzmen was gone.


“Now us old timers have got together again. We want to bring back the big sounds from those days. We call ourselves the Jazz Pioneers.

“But we’ve got lots of problems, big and small. For example: we need a trombone player. We know a good trombone player who lives in Springs. And he wants to play with us. But he can’t blow until he gets his false teeth.

“And when Kippie died, we all lost a good friend. He was a giant in jazz. I fought hard to keep him in the Pioneers. I felt proud to play with a man like him – even though many people did not understand him. And now he’s gone and we’ll never get another one like him. But we know that we must go on. Us old timers have a job to do. We can’t let the old music die.”.

The last ride

Created by Readiris, Copyright IRIS 2005Early one morning last month, they found a dead man at the Village Main Station in Johannesburg. His name was Simon Khamanga.

Some thugs got Simon the night before. They got him while he waited for the train to take him home. The gang stabbed him many times.

Simon Khamanga died all by himself. Nobody was around to help him. His death was a lonely death.

Created by Readiris, Copyright IRIS 2005But Simon was not alone when he went to the grave. He was a man with many friends. For Simon was a member of the Johannesburg Scooter Drivers’ Association (JSDA). The JSDA is a trade union for scooter and motor – bike drivers. And the guys in this union stand together. When one of the members dies, that member does not have a lonely funeral.

After all the union’s slogan is: “An injury to one is an injury to all”.

All the members heard about Simon’s death. When they heard they went to talk to their bosses. They told their bosses they wanted their bikes for the funeral. They said they wanted to give their friend his last ride.

Created by Readiris, Copyright IRIS 2005They met at the Kliptown football field on the Sunday morning. They began to arrive at 11 o’clock. They came in two’s and three’s. Drivers who had no bikes, came on the back of their friend’s bikes. Some drivers also brought their girlfriends along.

Soon the field was like a sea of different colours. The clean silver of the exhaust pipes shone with the bright red, yellow, black and white helmets of the drivers. Many of the guys came with black leather jackets and dark sunglasses. And most of them stuck the sign of the union on the back of their bikes.

The union organizer moved around the field. He collected money from the drivers. He took their money and wrote receipts. The drivers gave over R800 to help with Simon’s funeral.

Created by Readiris, Copyright IRIS 2005At 12 o’clock, about 150 bikes were parked on the field. The organizer told them to make two long lines. Then suddenly they all started up. The small bikes buzzed. And the big bikes roared.

They drove off. They made their way to the Catholic Church in Pimville ­ where Simon’s body lay waiting.

At the church, they parked their bikes in two long rows. They went quietly into the church. They sat with Simon’s famiIy. They sang and prayed for their dead friend.

Two of the union leaders spoke in the church. They prayed for the soul of Simon Khamanga. And they told the drivers they must always stand together. They told them they were strong when they stand together.

The driver’s agreed with their leaders. “An injury to one is an injury to all,” they shouted.

Six members of the union stood up. They put on their crash helmets. And they carried the coffin out of the church. They put the coffin into the big black funeral car outside.

All the drivers went back to their bikes. They started up again. And they drove off slowly. They led the big, black car to the Avalon Cemetery in Soweto.

At the graveside, the members of the union stood together with the Khamanga family. And they prayed again. The coffin was slowly dropped into the grave. Some of the drivers picked up spades. They filled their friend’s grave with the thick, red soil.

Afterwards they went to Simon’s house in Pimville. They all had some­ thing to eat. And they remembered their dead friend from the union.

The members of the union were sad that day. But they went home with one happy thought. Each man knew that when he has problems, his friends will be around to help.

After the funeral Learn and Teach spoke to the organizer of the JSDA. He told us about the union.

“We are not like an ordinary trade union,” he said. “Most unions help workers when they are alive and well. We help our members when they are working and when they are dead.”

“Scooter drivers have many problems at work,” he said. “Wages are very low. Some drivers get under R60 a week. The union is fighting for a better wage.

“Scooter drivers also have a dangerous job. How many times have you seen a scooter driver lying half dead in the road? Often the bosses do not give us boots, gloves and rain suits. The bikes are also often not safe. The union fights to make this job safer.

Created by Readiris, Copyright IRIS 2005“We also lose our jobs very easily. Sometimes a driver has an accident. He goes to hospital for three weeks. He comes out of hospital and he has no job. His boss has got another driver.

“And sometimes the drivers don’t get their compensation money. Workers get this money from the government when they get sick or have an accident at work. The union helps scooter drivers with all these problems.”

The Union has now got over 400 members in Johannesburg. They also now organize scooter drivers in Germiston and Randfontein. The JSDA organizer believes over 12,000 scooter drivers work on the Wit­watersrand. He says the union needs many more members to get strong.

Are you a scooter driver? Do you want to join the union? You can write or go to the JSDA at:

Room 203,
Chancellor House;
25 Fox Street;

Tel: (011) 838-2377

“CISCO THE GREAT”: The gangster who went straight

Created by Readiris, Copyright IRIS 2005The Russians, The Berliners, The Msomis, The Spoilers, The Americans …. even brave men got scared when they heard these names. These were the names of the gangs that ruled the townships of Johannesburg in the 1950’s.

And some of the meanest gangsters came from Alexandra Township. Chanki ‘Zorro’ Mahangwe, Shad rack ‘Bra Max’ Mathews, Alec ‘Msomi’ Dube – these were only some of the men who gave Alex the name ‘Slag­ paal’ – the place of slaughter. I n those days, in the words of an old Drum writer, “mothers feared for their daughters and fathers feared for their wages.”

Today most of these gangsters are dead. Some died the same way they lived – by the bullet or the knife. Others died at the end of a hangman’s rope. But one gangster lived through it all. His name. Paulus ‘Cisco the Great’ Tefo. He is an old man now and his gangster days are over.

“I am not afraid to tell you the story of my life,” says Cisco. “But I tell you I am not proud of those days. My eyes bleed when I think of the story.”


Paulus ‘Cisco the Great’ Tefo doesn’t know the year he was born. “When I first saw the sun I knew I was here in Alex,” says Cisco. “I don’t know what year it was. All I know is I found my parents here when I came out.”

Cisco was like so many children in the township. He didn’t like school. His parents didn’t have money. And he was bored in the ghetto.

“We used to march around the town­ ship” says Cisco. “One guy had a big drum.The rest of us played our penny­ whistles. We all wore coloured skirts­ just like the guys from Scotland. In this way we made an extra penny or two.”

The young Cisco loved music. His parents sent him to church. At church the only thing he learned was how to sing. Soon the young boy was going to all the dances. He was also a great dancer.

Cisco has a drink in an Alex shebeen.

Cisco has a drink in an Alex shebeen.

“I was a champion of the jitterbug style,” says Cisco. “Once I even won a prize with that great doll Dolly Rathebe. I also knew the great guys of music – like Zulu Boy Cele and Zakes Nkosi. Those guys played the hottest music in town. Sometimes I sang for them when they played at weddings.”

But while Cisco danced to the music of Zulu Boy Cele, the people were suffering. Wages were low and jobs were scarce. People couldn’t find houses. And when they did find houses, rents were high.

The people had to live. So many people turned to crime. And soon Cisco was ready to join them. Or as Cisco said, “In life the boys had no dough. They had to get into this.”

Shad rack 'Max' Mathews Msomi leader now dead.

Shad rack ‘Max’ Mathews Msomi leader now dead.


“I stayed in Alex but I moved with the boys from Sophiatown,” says Cisco. “We called ourselves the Young Americans. The gangs in Alex were the Spoilers and the Msomis. They were a bad bunch. I did not keep their company!”

The Spoilers and the Msomi’s ruled Alexandra in the 1950’s. A group of young boys started the Spoilers. They stole from people’s pockets. They went to parties in the township. And they always gave the women a hard time – and their boyfriends could do nothing but watch.

Soon the Spoilers were stealing from shops. Some shopkeepers paid the Spoilers to keep away. They paid “protection money”.

Some of the shopkeepers got a bit angry. A tough butcher called Shad rack Mathews decided to fight

the Spoilers. He went to see the door­ keeper at the Plaza bioscope. He was a strong man called Alec Dube. Together they started a gang called the Msomis.

The Msomis fought the Spoilers. But thats not all. Soon the Msomis were also robbing shops and stealing wages from the people.

The Msomis had an office on the corner of Selbourne Avenue and 12th Avenue. The gang had its own judge. Nobody could stand up to the Msomis – and live.


“The Msomi guys were bad news,” says Cisco. “They robbed and killed their own people. All of Alex hated them. But we were not like that. We were thieves and fighters. And we only stole from the rich and from the shops in town. Then we sold the goods to the people at a lower price. But we never killed our people.”

“The boys from Sophiatown always came to fetch me in a boat,” says Cisco. (They called the big old cars ‘boats’) “From Alex we moved into town and did our jobs.”

Then Cisco and the young Americans decided to do a big job. “We had worked a plan with a white guy who worked in a bank,” says Cisco. “The job went well – no problems. Then when we had the dough in our hands,

the white man called his friends. They wanted all the dough for themselves. They followed us in a big, black Buick. I thought this guy was going too far. So I pulled out my gun and shot him. The guy died.”


Paulus Tefo got 15 years for murder. In the meantime the war between the Msomis and the Spoilers got hotter. Many gangsters died in these wars. And many were arrested. And some like Shad rack ‘Bra Max’ Mathews were hanged.

Cisco spent 12 years in jail. Then they let him out for good behaviour. “I did a long stretch inside,” says Cisco. “I had a long time to think. When I came out most of the old guys were dead or in jail. I decided to go straight. I even got a job – but I must say, its the on Iy job I ever had!”


Today Paulus ‘Cisco the Great’ Tefo is an old man. He is very poor. He lives in an old shack in his sister’s backyard.

The 'Mayor' and the kids of Alex.

The ‘Mayor’ and the kids of Alex.

Cisco broke his leg last month. So now he walks all bent over on crutches. His face is full of deep lines. And his body is full of old wounds. “You see, look at this stab wound on my wrist here,” the old man will say.

But in his old age, Cisco has begun a new life. He now cares about the people around him. He wants to help them.

“Right now I’m trying to help my people get better houses”, says Cisco. “And I go and pay for peoples permits when they are at work. I also help them when they have got problems. That is why they call me the Mayor of Alex.”

And its true. Whenever he walks in the street people shout, “Heyta Cisco!

How’s the Mayor?” Sometimes people call him to sing for the kids at a birthday party. He gets a little money this way.

So now Paulus ‘Cisco the Great’ Tefo sings for the children of Alex. He tells them stories about the old days. But he tells the kids he is not proud of the stories. He tells them gangs are not the best way to fight for better houses and higher wages. He tells the people they can only get a better life if they work with each other· and not against each other. •

Mehlolo Tom Rikhoto: The man who only wanted a chance

Created by Readiris, Copyright IRIS 2005In South Africa, the words “Section 10 Rights” mean so much. Sometimes Section 10 Rights can mean everything – like staying alive.

A black person with Section 10 Rights can stay in the cities. They can work or look for a job. And some people with Section 10 Rights can even stay in the cities – and have their families with them. Now these people are really lucky!

But most black people in South Africa aren’t that lucky. Most black people in South Africa don’t have Section 10 Rights. These are the people who live outside the cities. These are the people who live in the ‘homelands’ and on white farms.

The people in the ‘homelands’ are suffering. They are crowded together. They don’t have land to grow enough food. And very few find jobs because jobs are so scarce in the homelands.

But worst of all, these people are dying. They are dying from hunger and sickness. The young children suffer the most.

These people only have one chance. They must leave their families behind and go to work in the cities. The cities are their only hope.

But the people can’t just go to the cities. They must first go to the labour office or the labour bureau. If they are lucky, they will get a contract to work in the city. (Thousands of black people can’t ever work in the cities. They have ‘farm worker’ stamped in their pass books. They can only work on farms. Farm workers also suffer great hardship. They get very low wages. And farmers often treat them badly).

Most contract workers live in crowded hostels when they come to the cities. Some stay in crowded houses on a lodger’s permit. And these people must stay in their jobs ­ because they can’t leave their jobs and find another one. If they leave or if they are fired, they must go back home. And they must wait for another contract.

Contract workers only see their families for a few weeks each year. They see their families when they go home every year to get new contracts.

Some contract workers have got Section 10 Rights after a long time. They got Section 10 Rights after they worked for the same company for 10 years in the same town. Or if they worked for different companies for 15 years in the same town. But in 1968 the government stopped all contract workers from getting Section 10 Rights. They said contract workers start their jobs again after they get new contracts – even if they stay in the same job. So a contract worker could not say he worked in the same job for 10 years. Or for different companies for 15 years. Every time a contract worker got a new contract, that contract worker started a new job.

This new law hurt many people. Thousands of black people in South Africa knew they would never get Section 10 Rights. And then along came Mr Mehlolo Tom Rikhoto.


Mehlolo Tom Rikhoto was born in a ‘homeland’ called Gazankulu 35 years ago. He left school in standard four and got a contract to work in the city.

Mehlolo worked in a factory in Germiston. He lived in a hostel. “I didn’t like the hostel,” says Mehlolo. “People steal your things. And the hostel is a lonely place. A man misses his family in the hostel.”

In 1973 Mehlolo got married. He married a woman called Rosina. They have four children already. Mehlolo only sees his family for a few weeks every year – when he goes home to get a new contract.

Mehlolo worked hard and he sent money home every month. Then in 1979 he got a bit lucky. He met this guy Mr Nkosi who has a small house in Katlehong.

Mehlolo outside the small house in Katlehong where he stays

Mehlolo outside the small house in Katlehong where he stays

Mehlolo told Mr Nkosi he hated the hostel. Mr Nkosi’s house was full. But he wanted to help his new friend. So he got Mehlolo a lodger’s permit and took him home to his small house in Katlehong.

So Mehlolo lived with Mr Nkosi and his family. When he got home late, Mehlolo didn’t want to wake the people inside. So he slept in a car outside.

Mehlolo liked his job. Then one day his problems began. “This white man started quarrelling with me,” says Mehlolo. “He said I didn’t want to listen to him. I lost my job in April last year.”

Now Mehlolo was a worried man. He was a contract worker and he had to go back home. But Mehlolo was in no hurry. He couldn’t throwaway his only chance. He had a wife and children to feed.

Mehlolo went to the pass office. He asked them for a special permit to stay in the city. But the people at the pass office were not so friendly. They told him to pack his bags and go back to Gazankulu.

Mehlolo bought a newspaper. He didn’t know what else to do. And in the paper he read a story about the Black Sash. The Black Sash helps people with their problems. So Mehlolo went to the Black Sash for help. They gave him a letter to take to the pass office. It didn’t help. They gave him another letter. It also didn’t help.

“I went back to the Black Sash,” says Mehlolo. “They told me to leave my problem with them. They said they will try and do something.”

Then a few weeks later Mehlolo went back to the factory. And they gave him his job back. Mehlolo felt a lot better.

In September 1981 Mehlolo got a letter from some lawyers. The lawyers said they had maybe found a way to help Mehlolo get Section 10 Rights. They said that before 1968, contract workers could get Section 10 Rights after 10 years with the same company. And Mehlolo had worked for the same company for 10 years – even before he was fired.

The lawyers said the government had no right to change the law in 1968. They said Mehlolo had worked for 10 years – and so he must now get Section 10 Rights.

So Mehlolo went to court. The lawyers helped him. They told the court Mehlolo must get Section 10 Rights.

Suddenly everybody knew the name Mehl’olo Tom Rikhoto. Thousands of people waited for the court to decide. Mehlolo’s court case gave thousands of other people some hope.

The East Rand Administration Board (ERAB) fought Mehlolo in court. They said the court must not give him Section 10 Rights. They said Mehlolo must not get Section 10 Rights because he went home every year to get a new contract. And the 1968 law said:

“When a worker goes home to ,get a new contract, he leaves his job. When he comes back to work, he starts a new contract. A new contract is like starting a new job.”

The court said ERAB was wrong. The court said Mehlolo had worked for the same company for 10 years – even if he went home to get a new contract. The court said Mehlolo must get his Section 10 Rights.

Mehlolo was happy. He could now stay in the cities. He did not have to go home when he lost his job. And he could now bring his family to stay with him. (A court case in the Cape in 1980 said: “Contract workers with Section 10 Rights can bring their families with them to the cities.” People call this court case the ‘Komani Case’).

But Mehlolo was not happy for long. ERAB were bad losers. They did not want to give Mehlolo his Section 10 Rights. They said they wanted the highest court in Bloemfontein to decide.

E RAB lost again. Last month the court in Bloemfontein said Mehlolo must get his Section 10 Rights.

Mehlolo was happy. And so were thousands of other contract workers. They thought they also could now get Section 10 Rights.

The head manager tried to smile but he couldn't.

The head manager tried to smile but he couldn’t.

“I went with my lawyers to get my Section 10 Rights stamp,” says Mehlolo. “I found many people there also waiting for the stamp. They shook my hand and said they were very proud of me.

“I went to the head manager’s office. And he gave me the stamp. He said nothing. He was trying to smile but he couldn’t.”

Mehlolo got his Section 10 Rights. But the administration boards didn’t give Section 10 Rights to any other contract workers. They said they needed time. They said this and they said that. They made many excuses.

The administration boards were waiting for the government to decide. But they were not the only ones waiting. About 143 thousand contract workers were also waiting. They had worked for one company for 10 years. Or they had worked for different companies for 15 years.

After a long time, the government decided. They said only some contract workers can get Section 10 Rights – only some contract workers. Dr Koornhof said maybe only about 5 000 contract workers will get Section 10 Rights.

The pass offices are now giving some people Section 10 stamps, in their passes. But

nobody knows who will and who won’t get Section 10 Rights. “We will have to wait for about six months before we will know what is happening,” says Ms Sheena Duncan of the Black Sash.

Created by Readiris, Copyright IRIS 2005And Dr Koornhof said something else: When these workers do get Section 10 Rights, they can’t just bring their families with them to live in the cities. They must get houses from the administration board or community council. They must buy a house. Or they must build a house. Or they must rent a house.

But everybody knows about the shortage of houses. Thousands of people are waiting for houses. And very few workers have the money to buy houses.

So after all this whole long story, Mehlolo Tom Rikhoto didn’t really win. He can stay in the city to find a job. But he can’t bring his family to live with him because he hasn’t got a house. And he knows he must wait for many years until he will get one. His name is now on the bottom of the waiting list.

Every contract worker dreams about having Section 10 Rights. They dream about living together with their families. But while they dream for just a chance in life, they must listen to people like Mr Roy de Wet. He is the director of the Drakensberg Administration Board.

“Most workers in our townships have homes in Kwa-Zulu,” Mr De Wet told a Johannesburg newspaper last month. “They do not want their families to join them. Most workers only want enough time to go back to their four or five wives to make them pregnant.” Thanks for nothing, Mr De Wet!.


Have you worked for the same company for 10 years in one place? If you have, go to the pass office and ask for your Section 10 Rights. Take a letter from your company saying you have worked for 10 years.

Have you worked for different companies in the same town for 15 years? And have you had a proper permit to stay in the town? If you have, then go to the pass office and ask for your Section 10 Rights. Take a letter from the hostel or township superintendent saying you have a proper permit.

If you have problems, go to the Black Sash for help.