A day in the life of a South African maid

Florence SA domestic

I wake up at 4:30 am because Catherine and Stuart [not their real names] like me to serve them their tea in bed in the morning, and it takes a long time to get from Khayelitsha to Camps Bay. The first thing I do when I wake up is take a bath and get dressed. Then, I get my older children up, make them oats for breakfast and get them dressed. My son, who is 11, takes the baby, who is one-and-a-half to creche by taxi in the morning. My other daughter helps me feed and dress her before she walks to school with her friend. I have to leave my house at 5:30 am to make sure I am at work by 7:30 am when they wake up. Sometimes there is traffic or strikes or the trains aren’t running properly, and I get late. I have been late twice already, and if I’m late a third time Catherine is going to give me a written warning.

When I get to work I change out of my clothes and into my uniform. The first thing I do is wash my hands, put the kettle on and get the tea tray ready. Once they have their tea and rusks in bed, I go and wake the boy. I look after two kids, a boy of three and girl who is six months. The baby will be with the night nurse. Then the night nurse goes home. I get the boy up and make him breakfast. He likes French toast and rooibos tea in the morning. He is a good boy. I give the baby porridge and dress her. Stuart goes to work and Catherine goes to the gym. While she is gone I make her bed, pick up her clothes and shoes from the floor (she is messy, that one) and put everything away. I put the baby on my back when I clean the house. Sometimes it’s hard because the boy wants me to play with him, but if the house isn’t tidy when Catherine comes home she gets cross. I am not allowed to put the TV on for him because she wants me to only play with him. So that is difficult.

In the morning we go to the park. Catherine likes us to get out so that she can have some peace and quiet. I pack some food for the kids. There is a park close by, and we play there. I have a friend who goes to the same park, so we meet each other. Sometimes I worry about my girl. She doesn’t like the creche, she misses me. She cries in the night and wants me. It’s a long day for her to be without her mother. I took her there when she was one month old because I had to go back to work. I couldn’t breastfeed her anymore. She was always sick and I think it is because I couldn’t breastfeed her. It is a long time for a baby to be without her mother, but I must work. My husband earns R3 500 a month. It is not enough for us to live.

When we get home Catherine likes me to make her a salad. She won’t eat bread because she’s on a diet. Only fish and chicken every day, but she is too, too thin. Then I make lunch for the kids and we sit together in the garden and eat. In the afternoon when I put the boy down for his sleep I put the baby on my back so she can sleep and I do the ironing. Then I start with supper. I used to work in a restaurant so I know how to cook. Stuart wants to eat meat every night. I make steak or a stew or I cook chicken and vegetables. I bath the kids at 5 pm. At 5:30 pm I must leave to catch my bus, but sometimes Catherine asks me to iron the dress she wants to wear if she is going out. Then I get home very late. It takes me two hours to get home. My kids are already home. I leave the key with the neighbour and they let themselves into the house and do their homework. My son fetches the baby at creche after he finishes school. I cook supper and I am very tired.

My husband comes home at 7 o’clock. At the end of the month the money is finished. Then we only eat pap and vegetables. Together we earn R7 000, but most of that is for school fees and food and transport. Transport is very expensive, I must give my son R20 a day and my bus costs R150 per week. My husband works on a Saturday too, so Sundays we are all together. We go to church in the morning and then we eat meat for lunch. We only eat meat on a Sunday. I am lucky for my job, and my husband is lucky. There are lots of people who are not working. Then I try to do everything right. I tidy the cupboards and I wash the curtains. Catherine gives me old toys and clothes. We are also lucky that we have our own house, but in the winter the roof leaks and the kids get sick because it is always wet. There is water on the floor and our shoes and clothes are wet. It is very cold in our house in the winter. I am looking for an old washing machine because it is difficult washing all the clothes by hand. When I get home from work I wash. It is difficult to make the clothes get dry in the winter.

I have good kids, but my girl struggles at school. Her teacher wants her to have extra lessons, but it costs money and we don’t have money. If my kids are sick it is a problem because if I don’t go to work Catherine gets very cross. If the baby has a fever she is not allowed to go to creche. Then my son must stay home from school and take care of her. I am worried then because he is only a boy of 11. It is not so easy, no. I have a good job. They give me paid leave at Christmas, two weeks. My family is in the Eastern Cape. It is very expensive to take the whole family so every three years we take the bus to see my parents for Christmas. They are old now. I don’t know if I will see my parents again before they die.

– As told to Susan Hayden

Susan Hayden [supplied]

Susan Hayden writes for Cosmopolitan, Shape, Oprah, Marie Claire, Mamamia and the Sunday Times. She also reviews restaurants and is completing her third book about wine.  This piece was originally published on her blog, The Disco Pants Blog.


  1. This is heartbreaking, I think this is a generalization though, my family and friends domestics are not expected to cook on top of all their chores – that is a seperate job altogether, so is child-minding? A warning for being late is also a little harsh based on the travelling time and all the chores that are expected. I really hope this isn’t the way the majority of maids are treated in SA.

      • i know no one who treats their maids this way. we treat ours with respect and give her extra money if she needs, if they are expected to come so early and babysit and feed them then they usually have a place in the house in which their family will live.

          • Thank you for your honesty Jo. I was reading this and thinking – it sounds about right. For most of the ladies I know who work as maids.

          • 17th 18th century Cape Town, South Africa. In Jackie Loots book ‘Echoes of slavery’ Lady Barnard an aristocrat (1750-1825) comments. ‘The white inhabitants ‘mostly fat gross people’ as a result of a diet that included ‘a vast quantity of grease and butter’ and she thought them extremely indolent, for ‘they are not in this country active, but the labour is left entirely to the slaves’.

        • Oh Jamey Darling such denial will kill your soul…I know of many many of us that treat our Helpers this way!!! Because we feel entitled and we are so damn lazy and spoiled as housewives , I’ve lost a friend too this behavior I could not keep my opinions to myself. We put our selves first.

        • I actually know people that does treat they domestic like that. The talk about the aupaire , maid and cook like it is 3 people. They are terribly pretentious. In their own minds they think it greatly altruistic to pay her extra (not overtime, but extra/pro rata) on Saturdays. They will brag about buying the domestic’s daughter; who is the same age as theirs, a tablet to play on. But she does not get to take it home. She only play on Saturdays, when her mother does all the “extra things”…whatever that is. Same as the lady in this article, Mable is pathetically thankful for all the old drab they throw her way. This is not just a long way for us as a country but even more so for us as a species.

      • This is obviously an upper class family as the mother doesn’t work. In the majority of families of all races both parents have to work and we wouldn’t then expect the domestic to cook or to stay late or to give us breakfast in bed

    • I think that is fair but there are certainly points here that are true just because of the nature of the relationship between maid and employer: the far distances to travel, that domestic helpers have children of their own to care for, that there is the potential for irrational instructions, and most of all: given all this demanding work most helpers are paid very small salaries.

    • I dont treat my helper like this. She doesnt cook … terrible cleaner but watches my kids just fine. My Gran is there or Im there. Weekends shes off. I buy her clothes and her children are older. God I will treat her way better. This is awful .

      • Dont comment if ya dont want to bro… its funny how u so heartless just because u wont relate to this… this story so sad coz this couldve been any black family

    • My grandmother is in a similar position as this maid except that she does not babysit but may be asked every once in a while to should the need arise. She has to use a separate bathroom which is on the back yard.
      When I go to see her, I have to use a back door and wait outside in the garden or in the kitchen and no where else. There’s certain clothing that she has to wash with her hands because “the machine will ruin them”. She does not wear a uniform but she was once expected to wear anything as long as it is navy and white.
      She earns less than R2500 a month and spends about R500 on her transport costs which is the cheapest bus ticket and she walks about 2kms a day to get to and from bus stops. She works from 8am till 4pm. Get’s weekends off. She cooks for her employers and prepares food for their pets (dogs and ducks).
      If the Garden-Boy is on leave, she irrigates the lawns, trees and garden for a fee between R50 and R100, she also rakes the leaves. She is not allowed to make calls or to receive “too many” phone calls while is at work. She gets lunch leftovers, of which she keeps for my cousins.
      The relationship between her and her employers is a Proper Maid-and-Masters’ relationship.
      When I visit her, I have to be “nice”, the wife always asks about how beautiful her paintings are and sometimes she asks about her clothes and pictures and stuff like that. LOL, I have to lie and say their are very beautiful so that I don’t offend ou-missus and she speaks Afrikaans 90% of the time even though I made it explicitly clear that I don’t understand it. She can speak Xhosa like any Xhosa person I know, mind you.
      This is happening in the Eastern Cape. She get a month’s unpaid leave. She get to work a half day on the 24th of December and she gets a bonus and Christmas card.
      My grandmother helps ou-missus to bake so that she can get a cake, tart and trifle for Christmas. On her birthday she gets to bake herself a cake and they write her a birthday card. So they are kind sometimes but they are racists, in denial maybe.
      Only recently is my grandmother allowed to come to work late if she is needed in my cousins’ school. She gets all her public holidays off.
      I went to a government school and had to travel to school because I went to better government schools that were in another township and through out my schooling, ou-missus and bass’ grandchild was always behind in grades to me. They used to say to me, “Luzuko, … is not a books person like you but she is promising in sport.”
      They’ve never contributed a cent towards my education. I’ve been in university for three years now and … went to USA because of her sports’ skills. Her father was a principal in Rondebosch Boys’ High School. However this year in June, Ou-missus and baas summoned me (I use this term because if I did not go, it would reflect badly on my grandmother) and they innuendoed that I got to university (a university that uses the same assessment standards for potential students regardless of race unlike UCT) because of affirmative action and they talked about how I would go on to become a BEE beneficiary and of course how the ANC has ruined this country and how the NP was trying to make things better but was “misunderstood”. I am very politically minded but I could not share my opinions because they are considered to be my grandmother’s. At home we are not even ANC supporters, I did not vote for the ANC in these elections.
      I would not dare say a thing about her working conditions and how she is treated because that is goodbye to a job she has held for more than 25 years. My great grandmother’s story is similar to this domestic workers’ but she had to sleep over to look after her employer’s children who are now my grandmother’s employers.
      My family and their family have a long history but the dynamic has not changed, even though I will be successful and not work for them in anyway, to them I will always be “the help”.

      • Bhuti wam…
        I dont know what to say.This resonates with me so much,because my grandmother was in the exact position….ya neh..

      • hi everyone this is very sad to read i have a home helper and in our home it is the other way around.my tiny is family,we help her. she eats what we eat, we abstain from meat dishes on certain days we fast she understands.we live in a complex but she uses our facilities.my dad serves her food or she dishes out on her own,she is free as long my home is neat. this lady that gets her home helper to cook ,clean kids served tea in bed she should pay her 8000 a month.south african people are spolit.i am single working women and by reading this article it seems madam doesn’t work ( not judging) and do evening dishes.clean up if i have to ,got 2 brothers they even do their share.pay her a salary plus we give her extra also we tell her to go visit her children on weekends, we give her days off, don’t shout at her if she late as long she phones us if she not coming in.

      • First off, good for you! Secondly, it makes my heart so sad to read this. It’s the new South Africa. Domestic employment should be just that, employment, like any other job , not this type of controlling, fear driven hostile environment. I hope things get better for your grandmother and that they realize she is a human being too.

      • People don’t have respect for each other. I know those children will see how their parents treat your wonderful hard working Grandmother and then think it is right and continue the disrespectful cycle. I dislike people who is like this, even ashamed to be associated by skin and language. Even when I go to fetch my son from school I see the Domestic carrying the child’s school bag and I get so furious, want to shout at them and ask if they cant carry their own bag. This is not only happening in upper class / middle class white families, my parents neighbors are black and the Domestic needs to watch twins, and a 6 year old. She needs to clean and cook and stay over weekends. She only gets 1 weekend off and sometimes it is taken away from her when the parents aren’t home.

      • I met rural eastern cape people like this while cycling arond SA (I’m a bit of a drifter) and can confirm that what you describe is the norm. Your story is touching and real and I can’t imagine how so many of us (whites) remain so dreadfully blithe and unappreciative and supercilious. I met a husband and wife, retired farmers, who were ’employing’ two women, also apparently infinitely patient souls. The two baked all the biscuits of this afrikaans woman’s quite extensive biscuit selling network. I worked for the man myself, I’ll wager I got more money than they did. I think people such as your grandmother are the patience and the goodness and the compassion of South Africa. I cringe daily at the arrogant white response to what has been a miraculous tolerance by black South Africa.

    • I’ve seen families treat their maids so much worse than this (in fact, there is no comparison), and none were particilarly rich.

    • I am suprisede that you even to choose to call them maids, but that is how they are treated.They leave their children to raise themselves and raise white kids who will later employ the same helper’s kids.

    • Well, it is 22 years on from 1994 and there are still millions of uneducated black people in South Africa and a surplus of domestic workers, so how about starting to look at some real facts?

      And btw this is the way the majority of workers of all kinds are treated in SA and most other countries too.

  2. It’s very sad indeed….
    The realities that our domestic workers face is often overlooked or not even perceived by the employers….

    These type of articles should feature more regularly in all our media, so that people become more aware, understanding and tolerant.

  3. I work with the South African Domestic, Service and Allied Workers’ Union (SADSAWU), although this story is not true for every domestic worker, it is true for many! Or happens in other ways – my colleague who is a “live-in” domestic worker must act as a security guard, staying in small room at the back of the property when the couple is away on overseas travel (plots in Constantia are huge). Her employer controls what she eats and decides – leaving the exact amount of food when they are away – like one apple every 2 days for example, and during that time she is not allowed to leave the premises. Once the premises where robbed but she called the police and most items were recovered – she developed such anxiety and stress because of the owners accusing her of colluding with the criminals! Also domestic workers would prefer not be called “maids” or “servants” but prefer terms like “domestic worker”, “care worker” “general worker” “cleaner” etc.

    • I call her Aunty but when speaking of her I either say uAunty / Helper not maid that is so degrading. She is helping . She gets time off. Gets there early cause its not too far off. She leaves at 4:30 and hardly makes porridge for the kids. Lord people need to be kinder

  4. People who treat “staff” like slaves are disgusting. I cannot understand the starve n gym mentality of some lazy glorified Moms. Geez. Spend time with your own kids…otherwise dont have them…they arent accolades…they are blessings who should be treasured!

  5. take this how you want, but with a pinch of salt.

    yes the sad domestic worker, but the vast majority of south africas are struggling and working hard.
    This country has now been put on a silver platter for the black man/woman. The education must be free for them, the jobs are all for them, regardless of how incapable they are ( and by the leader in parliament ) very . They still vote for a president who build mansions. They support leaders who are squandering the money.

    How much must i then pay my poor domestic, when i am, paying major tax, levies, fees, e toll , petrol, fees – cos i have to send my child to an expensive school, They can’t go to the local government school that i went to for R1000 a year, cos my child will end up getting raped by a 8 year old boy or her teacher!!!!! etc etc and the government instead of helping their own people, is busy living like the jones. I don’t feel sorry for anyone, Indian, coloureds, whites, everyone worked hard to get where they are. And times are tough everywhere.

    get off your sad story and be happy you got a job and good employees – at the end of the day IF THEY DID ALL THE WORK THEMSELVES, then they would not need you. You wanna know the plight of poor people, See what they doing to woman and children in other african countries! sudan, nigeria etc, rape, hunger, starvation, did i mention RAPE AND MURDER. and Black leaders are just wasting money – and YOU VOTED FOR THEM!!!!

    My nieces and nephew work hard, and are A students, but can’t go to university or get a job cos its reserved for Students who got E and F in school. Everyone is working hard. But this is a Black man’s country, everything is for you. DONT LIKE BEING A DOMESTIC? I’m sure with your experience you can become the CEO OF any company, they handing it out to anyone!

    If ZUMA AND MALEMA are leading, you got a good chance of being president as well

    Less stories of satire and humor bat “the poor maid” get a life, be grateful and realize things are tough everywhere.

    • @Naseema – pretty callous response. People are starving everywhere, so its ok to be exploited by people here? How do you even know she voted for the current government btw? And even if she did, does that absolve her employers from their behaviour? Don’t think so.

      • they pay her to do her job, if she don’t like it, look for another job. simple. when i had no money i walked door to door to every business in town for a company selling office items, knives etc the pay was not great, but i earned an honest living and worked hard. i didn’t complain. today i have everything, but always appreciate the fact that it came through hard work. and my determination to have a better life drove me to success. Not pitter parties. Again this pitiful way of thinking is what makes people even more lazy and “feel sorry” attitudes. If you don’t like your life, change it. You cannot keep playing on the sympathies.

        You wanna write an article. Write an article of the day in the life of a palestinian child, Aafiya Siddique, The Black child been sold by her father for prositution, The Boer Farmer…

        Braam – this article wanted to generalize, so here is the general truth, most people do thing they don’t like to earn their living. Hard work never killed anyone.

        • Hard work may never have killed anyone , neither has compassion. There is a big difference between pity and compassion.

        • Actually naseema I completely agree with you. I am a trauma doctor and if I had to write out a typical week for you people you would need some tea and a nap just from reading my typical day! As a black woman I have this to say to this woman who clearly suffers in her job- no-one will get you out if your misery except yourself. Empowerment is for your own taking. All these ‘compassionate’ people who are wanting to hug their maids- their compassion and sympathy ends right here in this blog. Your job sucks stop picking up after white people and get out! There are far more exciting ways to make 3500 a month.

          • @ Lwazi – Good response. I purposely don’t employ a domestic worker, because I don’t want to perpetuate the poverty mentality, and because I want my kids to be responsible with their environment. We are a family and we clean our house ourselves. I am indirectly encouraging one domestic worker to go and get a better job.

        • Naseema

          You are filled with hatred and anger and seem to have no empathy for this person that works so incredibly hard and gets treated so incredibly badly.
          I really hope that you do not have a domestic worker, in fact I feel sorry for anyone that has the displeasure of knowing you. You are right hard work never killed anyone but there is a difference between working hard and being enslaved.

        • For a person who has achieved so much success, it seems like every other good value in you left through the door. You are so angry, I am actually feeling sorry for you more than the woman in this story.

      • Wow. The bigotry and small-mindedness and stupidity in Naseemas post makes me sad to think that she is a fellow Muslim.

    • goddam. I just don’t want to believe there are still people out there like you. I feel dirty after reading that .i want to go home and hug the woman at home who is currently feeding and playing with my kids and cleaning my house. because I am grateful to have her in my home and my heart. because without her my life would be a whole lot harder.

    • Naseema, the fact is that no person should have to live under these conditions. Yes it is a job, we all understand that, and that she would probably be worse off without it. But if you only willing/can pay a low wage, then at least cook for yourself, look after and play with your own kids (after all you wanted them), and pick up after yourself. And maybe relax the working hours so that they may tend to other matters. They are not your slaves! They are human beings like the rest of us who deserve to be treated with dignity, no matter their circumstances. At least show some compassion. She’s not ungrateful for the job that she has, but it is not ideal, and it is not the way it is supposed to be. So maybe you also had your struggles, and well done to you for getting through it. Many of us have our struggles, and what helps us get through them is our faith, our determination and the support that we have. Support is key, so let’s support her. Let’s talk about this, as the author has done, so that we can change our attitudes, and live more respectful lives. In the sense that we respect people enough to treat them the way we would like to be treated.

      • Well said Bilal! I totally agree with you….It is not about a pity party, it is highlighting the reality of so many domestic workers and the way they are treated….they are NOT slaves and should not be treated like them either…they are a help in your home…a saving grace

      • Hello everyone.

        I am glad that there are so many different responses from all you bloggers.

        I am one of the directors at STAFTIFY and i also have a domestic worker called Fina. Now i have been in this game for 5 years and have seen a lot people being under paid and mistreated and even beaten and and and. I HAVE SEEN AND HEARD IT ALL, now with me being so clued up about LABOUR LEGISLATION and all i have learnt to treat people how they want to be treated. South Africa has one of the most complicated labour relations systems in the world. AND THAT MAKES NO SENSE AT ALL, but with all the rules and regulations and sectoral determinations ( who tells you what to pay who by the way ) i cannot see the problem!!! It’s easy, log on to labour.gov and go to legislation and get the required rates for the required people. Now back to Fina my domestic worker. She work’s Monday’s and Fridays and we pay her more than the required rate because she deserves it. If people perform and are willing to work then someone is bound to notice. If they don’t and you are unhappy THEN LEAVE. With that in mind just remember that finding a proper job in this country is not that easy. Not all people have the opportunity to go and study and especially not the older generation. So yes it is your RIGHT TO COMPLAIN BUT REMEMBER, IF YOU CAN DO BETTER WHY STICK AROUND. We all have obligations and we all have to make decisions that will eventually impact our family and ourselves. Complaining is a good thing if it is done for the right reason. SO GROW UP AND TAKE CHARGE. That goes for all of us. I will be posting again soon and hope that according to you i have made a valid point. If there are any questions please ask. Regards

      • Wow Bilal! Support and Respect!!! I agree with you, we need to live more respectful lives and that way we respect those around us regardless of who they are

    • Naseema you’er exactly what is wrong in my world. Callous 20-30 something who cant tell the difference between a legal wage and a living wage. You’re an embarrassment to your people, family and country.
      Grow a conscience!

      • No, Kayna, you’re a disgrace! You, and people like you, with your entitled minds, are what’s wrong with this country and world. If the domestic’s working conditions are so terrible she is free to quit.

        People like you are the reason this country will never move forward.

        • Michael, don’t attack Kayna because what she says makes you feel uncomfortable. She is not ‘free to quit’. how difficult is it to find another job in SA at the moment, think of that? think of how little money their family is getting a month, and how that might affect her choices – they literally cannot afford to be in a single income family. This Maid is not complaining, she isn’t judging, she is just telling her story. For you, coming from your privileged background to judge her and dismiss her for this is despicable and a damn well hope no one has to rely on you for their wage.

    • Naseema, you are entitled to your opinion and have some very valid points, what never ceases to amaze me though, is the poisoned response one always gets when you offer comments against the grain of how the article wants you to think.

      All manner of self righteous people come out of the woodwork to slate you. Not one person ever offers any practical “hands on” solutions to the fact that their are many poor people in SA, but they have all taken the time to slate your opinion.

      The article was specifically written to provoke comment and fuel an argument. While the maid in the article actually has a job and an income as well as a family, there are many people around the world who are much worse off. It was most probably written

      I wonder what percentage of the people who shout out loud on social media about the poor and downtrodden can move away from their keyboards and actually take clothes, toys and food and most importantly TIME to the jobless poor and homeless in this country.

      • Fos, i believe that you are missing the point completely. The discussion isn’t calling for those who have to be charitable to those who do not have. Rather it appeals a sense of justice. It is a job, agreed, but if you can only pay a minimum wage, then let the person work according to that wage. And take responsibility for the rest which the wage does not cover. If you want to be looked after in every sense, then be willing to pay the applicable wage.

        This is the ‘hands on’ solution you have asked for. Lets look at a scenario. Say you can only afford R200 a day. So then let the lady come in for 4 hours. Let her vacuum, and mop, clean the bathrooms and perhaps do the washing

        You then should cook your own food, wash your own dishes, make your own bed, and put your clothes back in the cupboards.

        She can then service another place at the same rate, earning approximately R8000/month, a decent wage.

        If you looking for convenience (a luxury), the you need to be willing to pay for it. It shouldn’t be at the expense of another person who needs a job, a fact you are very well aware of, and more than willing to use to exploit the person.

        Ask yourself, would you be willing to do the job for the pay, even if you had no choice.

        To those who feel that the picture painted in the article is an exaggeration, I know of a household that is run in exactly the same manner.

        • “This is the ‘hands on’ solution you have asked for. Lets look at a scenario. Say you can only afford R200 a day. So then let the lady come in for 4 hours. Let her vacuum, and mop, clean the bathrooms and perhaps do the washing”

          You’re joking right?

          You want me to pay someone R200 for 4 hours work?

          And all they have to do is vacuum, and mop, clean the bathrooms and perhaps do the washing.

          Sounds like a dream job. Where do I sign up?

          • Michael, consider what your hourly rate is and what you get done in a typical 4 hours. take into consideration the fact that she carries out physical labour. where to sign up? I’ll employ you for 4 hours to come clean my place for R200. Will you do it?

          • I’ll do it happily. I don’t think you’re gonna find too many jobs that pay R50 an hour for unskilled labor on a permanent basis.

          • I think people should just clean their own houses. Problem solved.

            Then when people wonder why that job no longer exists, they can be comforted by opinion fluff pieces like these.

    • If I read correct the story, the lady is grateful for her job and was just highlighting the challenges she is facing. She is a hardworking parent who want the best for her family. This has mentioned nothing about race or government. Naseema you seem to have your own issues and you just found this as the best opportunity to vent your anger. Read the story again

      • This article is about being trapped in a dead end job that the staff member seems to not like. But despite her own life has to put the job first in order to get the monthly paycheck to keep her own family fed and in school. A dilemma most of us have faced- doing crappy jobs to pay the bills.
        In my experience maids that work for black families are often treated with the same indifference or worse.
        We call this Capitalism!

    • Naseema you are an ignorant little shit. Youre entitled to your opinion but you are confusing matters here. May you never end up working as the maid.

    • Wow…issues much? This article is more about the growing social divide, compassion, treating your workers with consideration and paying a fair living wage. At the end of the day your help is there to make YOUR life easier and is human just like you. I do not think the subject is asking for a handout but fair treatment is all. What has all the rest of the stuff you brought up got to do with it? Completely wrong forum to go on your soapbox so just chill a bit.

    • Naseema, I think your response to this article is not very well thought out! My only comment to you is tht every employee regardless of their job deserves to be treated with dignity and respect when they go into the work place. There should also be a level of flexibility, especially when they have kids. I know that in my job I will not get a writen warning if I am late to work due to public transport issues or cannot come to work because I am sick or my kids are sick. What irritates me most the most is that your response is so racist and assumes that because someone is black that they are uneducated and deserve to be treate badly because the system in South Africa is unjust or that because they are black yet do not struggle like white people to find work!

      Also, as an aside, a domestic worker should not be expected to do all the cooking, cleaning and be a nanny and 7:30 is an early start for any job! Those are three different jobs – one of them could be called a mother (I.e you don’t have a job and you have had kids get off your lazy ass and cook them breakfast yourself , play with then yourself – seriously! An who the hell needs a night nurse!) this artile makes me angry because the poor white lady, who doesn’t have a job cannot feed herself, pick up after herself or look after her kids! I know lots of working moms an stay at home moms who are not like this and still know that you need to treat your employees with respect! My mom stayed at home at home and raised us – she don’t need someone else to cook a breakfast and she still had time to exercise! So to cut a long story short regardless of your race, age, gender or sexuality – when you go to work you should not be treate like dirt!!!

      • Money talks (in this society, unfortunately). No one ever did those things for me (by the way, I am white), I did chores since I was a child. Everyone isn’t that lazy, but they pay her to do that. If someone is treated unfairly in the workplace, there are steps they can take. It happens in all industries and workplaces, not just with maids.

      • Agreed!!! I think its about respect for others! Not about race. I am a young working mother and I have a nanny/helper and she has taught me a great deal about raising a child. We cannot assume because she has to settle for a domestic job that she is uneducated.

        Seriously? Where is your humanity?!

      • It’s all very well to say “do your house work yourself” . However, what will happen to those hundreds of thousands of domestic workers when that happens? How will all those single moms feed their kids?? Not a well thought out idea, really. Thank goodness there are lazy people who employ workers to do their housework for them!!

    • Dear Naseema,

      I am 27 years of age I have two brothers aged 34 and 32 and my mum was and still is a domestic worker. She was married to a man who made an honest living as a driver until he was murdered in 2001. My mother was only earning a salary of 600 a month in when my dad died. I grew up in the back room with my mother as she raised her employers kids they all got married and had kids and she was still there not because she had a choice but because she was a widow with 3 kids. My mother only reached grade 3 at school at the age of 20 and this happened because she would go to school one year the following drop out look for work at farm for 2 years so would have enough money for school uniform and her other siblings. so tell me dear where was my mother suppose to find a better job?? but I’m proud of her cause right now that “maid” has a son who is a civil engineer another who is an IT specialist and a daughter who has a diploma in HR studied electrical engineering and dropped out after getting a job my mom earns 2500 right now. Being a domestic is not the choice of many women in SA so don’t you dare sit on your golden throne and disrespect our mothers. I’m nothing without my mum and i love her nonetheless. these women work so hard for nothing but its okay cause they know deep inside they are investing in a better future for their kids. Naseema dear you need Jesus, a prayer cycle and some holy water!!!!

    • @Naseema,
      Your comment comes from angry view of you. how can you blame competence or none competence of people on government for what is being discussed here? who do you expect to govern the country, your race? I think people like you are taking South Africa backward, the competent you, what are you doing in SA if you are so competent, why don’t you relocate to where there is your race only. ill treatment to domestic workers is wrong whether done by you or me. where Zuma is president or De Klerk or Naidoo.
      you have been used to being superior for so long that all you think all good things and leadership is yours.
      have a wake up call and know this is South Africa.

    • Two wrongs dont make a right. What has women being raped in other countries have to do with domestic maids in SA. why should they be treated poorly just because women elsewhere are.

      Fortunately there are many people who are very kind to their servants. Who even pay for their maid’s children’s schooling, clothing etc. I know of someone paid for a house to be built for her maid in the Lowveld. We need to talk about both sides of this issue. The good and the bad.

      Personally I think we need to understand that women who work for us also have children and they also have to make sure that these kids are fed and get to school on time. Hard when you have to leave home so very early in some cases. Pay your made what you can afford and not what the ‘going rate is’

    • Naseema, I’m not going to read through all your responses, it angers me too much that people like you even exist. I just want to say this though: what an embarrassment and shame you are to the Muslim community. That’s if you are Muslim of course, a lot of impostors there are these days! You repulse me! Actually, you’re a shame to humanity. Sies!

    • happy you got a job and good employees – at the end of the day IF THEY DID ALL THE WORK THEMSELVES, then they would not need you. Should this woman then be happy with the fact that she is doing ALL the work at home?? She is tired, her children are neglected, her 11 year old child is responsible for his sibling. To her it seems as though her employers have the luxury of time and money. This may or may not be true. But so what. She is human. She is allowed to tell her story. I did detect a hint of “sob” in the story but she is allowed to complain. Almost everyone has a complaint about their job, their employers, their employees, their workload at university, their lack of time, the price of petrol, the government. How do you not have an ounce of compassion for her? Every story is not a success story. Not everyone can get out of a job that they hate and even with hard work step into a job they love. Not every story is a success story. Life does not always work that way. By the same token one could ask you to stop complaining about government, taxes and the unfairness of the acceptance system of our universities and get out of the county if you wish. But wait, that is not always possible. Lastly, the plight of the poor in Sudan does not make the plight of the poor in South Africa any less heartbreaking or sad.

    • OH MY GOD. until you have lived in any South African township, until you have experienced even a fraction of what most black South Africans go through everyday, until you realize that someone earning R3500 is not enough to house and feed a family, that’s probably your electricity bill for God’s sake but you cannot pay your domestic worker, gardener, pool cleaner a decent living wage yet you can send your child to an expensive private school because you have the money to please fall back and recognise your privilege. Even with regards to the fact that children with E’s are getting into varsity but your A student child with a far superior education than another, where is your compassion. How can you compare someone who stars at -100 to someone who starts at +1000000, I mean really now. And yes, not all domestic workers are treated this way, but far too many are and are not given decent respect because the employees know there are many people who will not necessarily happily take their place but desperately need to. I am incredibly saddened and disgusted at your response

    • Did you even bother to read the article? She’s not complaining, she’s telling the story. I cannot even the many times she said that this was “a good job”. Get off your high-horse

    • I agree 100%. If you are not happy with your job, look for a new job or create an opportunity, it is a choice! It is tough for everyone, but we don’t complain. I get paid to do my job and no one feels sorry for me even though I don’t like my job… I am working my way up to get where I want to be.

    • @Naseema I am honestly heartbroken to see such ignorance and lack of empathy in a fellow South African. I have nothing more to say to you.


    • Hi I’m back @naseema. Sorry I just can’t seem to get over your response. It makes me sad. So sad. I’m a student away from home and all I want to do is go home and give the domestic worker who has been working for our family for 25 years a hug. Aunty Virginia.

      I love this country with all my heart and yes it has it’s issues but people like you just make it worse. Bye.

    • Naseema really? How you treat your domestic has got thing nothing to do with politics or how much tax you pay. It’s a case of treating everyone with respect and humility, the same way you would like to be treated by your employer. Your level of ignorance is mind boggling

    • You are talking so much rubbish and I assume you’re an older person than I am. Unless you’ve lived a life similar to a domestic worker you have the right to type this. So shallow.

    • Wow naseema… that’s a really terrible attitude. Firstly this domestic worker isn’t looking for pity. She was approached for an interview & she shared her story.
      R3500 per month for that kind of work from some Camps Bay assholes who can afford to live on 1 income … hellz that’s unfair! These people are disgusting!

      Naseema.. is this how you treat people?

      FYI. . Mayb your nieces and nephews need to put some effort into their university applications.. There are so many options out there. How did Madiba study law in apartheid?

      I’m white. Graduated from CPUT with a bachelor’s in 2009. SA is swarming with whites like me. What’s stopping your relatives? Probably their attitudes.

    • I believe this still happens in SA and thise people saying they work their butts off- how dare you, now you complain about paying taxes etc to a corrupt governement what do you think the apartheid regime did- it robbed one race of all dignity and it will be a long time for the average black South African to catch up so they work normally irregardless of the corrupt government. You cannot punish the poor blacks for the corrupt governement because they voted for them- seriously what do you mean by this that they vote for a white governement because their life is better- that is complete BS. Also l see how many white people are calling their maids “my … ” uou do not own these people. Infact white SA have a sense of entittlement to what they were used to etc and those days are long gone. Instead you should all work to uplift one another bcos trust me a corrupt governement is everyones problem and not the blacks etc.

    • Then your niece and nephew must be living somewhere different to me. I am a white girl, I got six As in high school, and guess what: I got into Law at the best University in Africa.

      People claiming that white people etc. cannot get into university are morons.

      It’s hard to get in? Good. It should be. Work harder.

      And as for the rest of your bigoted nonsense — honestly, as everyone else has so kindly said, shut up.

    • If you can’t afford to pay your domestic a decent wage then do what the majority of people around the world do: Clean your own blerrie house.

    • You are unbelievable..and pathetic so to put it and full of assumptions. Get off your high horse or should I say wake and smell your pride around matters of the heart and stop missing the point. Criticism without facts won’t get you anywhere. Maybe your party will provide better services for all hey. I wonder how you treat your helpers if you have one. REALLY!!!!

  6. I think the title of this article is very misleading. This is most definitely not representative of a day in the life of every domestic worker in South Africa and if this is how she is treated, she should leave and find someone who will treat her fairly.

    Our domestic worker is picked up from the taxi rank at 09:45 (it’s within walking distance from our home) and dropped again at 16:00 in the afternoon. If she needs to attend to personal matters (clinic day, home affairs, school matters or attend to a sick child), she simply Whatsapps to tell us she’ll be late or not come in at all. She’s on holiday whenever we are, as well as over December holidays. She is not expected to work weekends or public holidays. She does not prepare meals or even serve us a cup of coffee. She eats whatever we eat and helps herself to food when she’s hungry. She takes food and clothing home to her family, as well as any items we no longer have need for.

    These are some text messages from her husband that I’ve received over time.

    [How are you MRS. I’m Promise the husband of Petronella your worker. I’m thanking you everything you are doing for Petronella to us its like a miracle I don’t know how can I thank you. What I can say is MAY GOD bLESS YOU and MAY HE REACIVE ALL YOUR PRAYERS”AMEN”]

    [Good morning MRS I want to thank you for everything you are doing for my sickness. The medicine,tips and help you are doing for me its amazzing. Now I’m using that bottle and everything is getting better and better. May God bless you I wish you progress in everything in your feture Thank you so much God bless your femily]

    [Good afternoon MRS. Its Promise the husband of Petronella I want to thank you for everything you have done for us for the Christimas ,Money and Grossary I want to thank you for everthing you are doing for us May God Bless your Femily]

    Articles like these do nothing to improve racial relations in South Africa. If there’s a problem, address the problem. Don’t make it out as being a general trend in South Africa.

      • yes… shutup Naeema. since you’re assuming, let me assume you’re not fasting or wait… maybe you are and your cranky? This domestic worker works her ass off… she is NOT complaining she is merely stating her daily woes… if u read properly you will see she says she is greatful!
        and just so you know miss ‘I sold shit on the street and is now better than the next’ EVERYONE complains about their job!!!!!!!
        geez naeema… pls… STFU!

        • Now that you brought up CRANKY who gives you the right to tell someone to shut-up ? I am happy that I am not your maid by the way you comment.

    • This domestic worker’s experience is not uncommon at all. And leaving a job because you don’t like the working conditions is usually a luxury of the “skilled”. Finding another job is not as easy as just presenting your cv. The choice is usually between food or no food and one won’t risk hungry kids for the sake of fairer treatment.

    • Wow, typical attitude of a boss. you are basically saying that you would never live in a situation like that, or send your kids to a school like that, but its all right for them. If they don’t like it they must find another job? Where exactly are they going to find another job, when the majority of bosses are just like you, more than willing to exploit their worker, because they know they can not go anywhere else.

      And how much must you pay them, a living wage, a fair wage. Would you be willing to do what she does for the amount of money that you pay her, of course not. But it is ok for her, because she is obviously not a human being of worth like you are. You would rather exploit her, because she is so vulnerable, than pay her what she is worth, just so that you can have more.

      Hard work, doesn’t the article sound like she works hard, would you accept a situation like that for your kids, that were sent to posh private school so that only unworthy humans get to go to public schools. No you wouldn’t? How is she or her kids supposed to get out of that situation, well, not by hard work. Because she is already working hard, but the boss will make sure that she never earns enough to leave the debt trap, or they will lose their cheap labour.

      But that is ok with you, because they are black and not palestinian or islamic… So screw them.

      I have to agree with the other writer, you are what is wrong with humanity in general, perfectly willing to screw others just because you are all right.

      • Bravo Justin, great response. Some people and their poor attitudes are a disgrace to this country. The fact is, it is not about white or black anymore. In this country the gap between very rich and very poor is growing by the day into a situation which can only be termed unjust, and it cuts across racial lines. I am privileged. I was unemployed for two years, worked as an unpaid volunteer for almost two years and then earned R5000 a month for 8 months (this was up until last year). BUT I had the opportunities as a white woman with a middle class family to support me until I could make more money. Some people will never have that opportunity. We have such basic problems in this country. Naseema would probably say “stop breeding and all will be okay”. But have you pulled your head far enough out of your own ass to realise that many women still live in cultural norms where women are seen as nothing but baby making and raising machines and live under threat of gender based and sexual violence should they “step out of line”. If they only had the opportunity to be educated enough to have ambitions to enter the working world or business world they would get married later and have less children, a luxury which the rest of us privileged women take for granted. But I guess in your eyes, Naseema, your domestic worker should not be paid a fair wage which would enable her to educate her daughter to become more and break the cycle. In your narrow-minded view, you walking door to door is somehow comparable to her situation. Disgusting.

        • Carly – I think you hit the nail on the hear with poor attitudes, but I must admitt that as non-South African living in SA I see them all around. I see them in atttitudes of whites disrespecting and offending blacks in everyday life. But I also see them in the attitudes of blacks, in the victim, take-pity-on-me-attitude, the expectations of something for nothing. I can’t imagine being served my morning tea by someone that just run into the house rushing from the taxi, I’d rather she sat down and hed her own tea. I can’t imagine leaving my clothes lying around for someone to pisk up. There is a borderline in doing domestic work. But on the other hand, because there are people that “MRS” from the article, other people have jobs. Respect and appreciacion? Yes, ABSOLUTELY!
          Paying more? If those pople were to pay double or same for shorter hours (as Bilal suggested), half of those pople would lose jobs. Would that be better?
          I only have a cleaning lady who comes twice a week. Sometimes she comes when my kid is sick, but then I don’t expect he to clean.
          The issue in South Africa is not the low wage of someone wo earns 200 rand/ day. In reality of South Africa, such salary is actually not bad at all. The issue is that this county hasn’t got any support infrastructure for people, no proper transport, hight costs of schools and healthcare – to me, this is the real problem.
          By the way – I’m originally from Poland. Maid in Poland earns similar salary as in South Africa. But at least we don’t pay for schools, pre-schools (if the child qualifies) and doctors visits… Transport is also better (read: existent…)

      • Justin, totally agreed… Accept for the Palestinian, Islamic comment. Please see my comment above. I’m a Muslim and can assure you that there exists no place for racism in Islam. Furthermore we are taught to pay our employees even before the sweat on their brows dry. I do not agree with Naseema’s stance on the matter, but I also don’t feel that it should be confused with religious beliefs. Let’s park that to the side. It is a matter of finding the humanity within us, and to treat one other with respect and dignity.

        Carly, you are spot on. It all boils down to opportunities. And we can’t judge only and unless we have been in the exact same position, which is more than unlikely.

        • Sorry Bilal, did not mean to come across as condemning islam, what I wanted to do is to point out that people intensify themselves with a group, and then as long as that group is all right, they find it ok to oppress others if it keeps that group’d privilege.

          Or they will lament about the horrors perpetuated against their group, but not consider the position of other people. LIke Israel and the zionist. But there are others that consider themselves part of a group, but not to the point that it alienates them from other people. Like all the Jews world wide that distances themselves from Israel and the zionist viewpoint.

          But it is a point for all of us to appreciate, when we get so caught up in our own world, on the rights and wrongs that are done against us, it becomes easy to start considering other human beings as being other, not part of our group and therefore not part of our concern, as if they exist only for the purpose they fill in our lives.

    • No offence to you, but most domestics earn a pittance and do not get the leisure treatment your domestic worker gets, its the cold hard truth- domestic workers are exploited, but so are people like me, a scientist, who must work for R8000-R12000, when I have a Masters degree in pharmaceutical chemistry!!! How must I as a young lady live in a safe area where the rent is half my salary?? I am only 25 and have a debilitating chronic illness that requires life long medication which costs me over R3000 a month and that is without the cost of seeing my doctor which is R1500 everytime I go and see him. My parents still have to help me because I cannot cover all my costs and they are going on pension, so how is that fair to them? I feel so sorry and so bad for the poor and I help those in need, without food or clothes too… but when I have R20 left halfway through the month and I see this poor man at the robot and those assholes who drive these big fancy R1000 000 million rand cars will not even open their window and help the poor starving man with R2, who ends up helping him (out of the goodness of my heart) ME!!!! I am more qualified than other idiots in the jobs I am trying to get and I do not get the job… I AM BEING EXPLOITED TOO!!!

    • It seems you have much pent up rage. Seeing that you’re posting on the internet you can say whatever you please. Can I just caution you on one point though: Don’t be hasty to judge anyone, if you don’t want to be judged yourself. It’s not as easy as you think, earning R7000 per month between two people. We who earn above 10k for each working family member think it can get tough, and it can. Imagine earning than that combined?

      I know we have freedom of speech but I wonder at what cost it comes.

    • Well said, I agree. Its articles like this one, that really perpetuates the racial issues in our country. It is definitely a misleading article. I know of plenty of domestic workers that are treated very well indeed.

    • There is so much resentment and bitterness in what I read in your comment. The worst in me would like to respond the same by referring to all the centuries of oppression by White supremacy but I wont. I am an educated black women I am sure much higher educated than you….and yet when you look at me all you see is a young Black women who got opportunities because of affirmative action. I constantly have to prove myself that I am competent. When in so many cases the white person who only have a matric will automatically become the manager or some post of authority just because he is white. And this I speak out of experience. Personally I think you are not in touch with what the daily struggling

  7. And there u have it. Naseema is a representation of the stereotypical Muslim Indian who shows no compassion and is so self absorbed in her own issues and stupidity and racism she can’t see beyond her own ass. Too many shitty Zee TV soaps. I bet she hates her mother in law too lol

    I beg of you all to not judge the rest of us based on this woman. Some of us actually have feelings for others.

    • I’d like to see you try to live one day in the life of the lady who was interviewed for this story. I bet you wouldn’t survive. Practise some compassion.

  8. This is the same as liking the office employee who awakes at 5am daily to ‘serve’ a company boss who is sitting at the beach on some tropical island.
    And too for the industrial workers, street sweepers, etc.
    Everyone’s got to get up and make a living.

  9. Naseema, just because there are people who suffer worse treatment in other parts of the world does not mean that other people’s suffering must go unacknowledged. The fact is, domestic workers in SA endure poor working conditions with low pay more often than not. And just because there is brutality in Sudan does not mean that that makes THIS treatment of domestic workers okay. I empathize with people from Sudan, Palestine etc. but I also empathize with doenstic workers.

  10. This article is patronising because the person that should have her picture on is the maid. The writer is making herself famous on the back of the maid too.

  11. Everyone has got to get up early and make a living. As the old saying goes. If you can’t afford babies, don’t have them.

  12. Firstly… Naseema you need to calm down. You’re embarrassing yourself, however you seem fine to be doing so as you are protected by the anonymity of the Internet, so outlandish, unthought out and ill-judged comments are easy to make without any ramifications on your personal character.

    I am a 27 year old black South African male, educated at one of South Africa’s famed boys schools, I have traveled to over 30 countries and lived in 3, Uruguay, Mexico and currently the United States. Your comments are by far the most callous, uneducated and ill-advised I have come from any human being in ages! Yes, there are of course human beings 20 times more stupid (2 minutes spent on the comments section of any news24.co.za article will attest to that), however the way you try to pass your comments off as righteous is incredible! You’re obviously carrying a massive chip on your shoulder to make comments like “my kids could get raped by an 8 year old boy or their teacher” or “if she is treated so badly then she should get a new job” I would love to know where you attended school, because they clearly didn’t do the best of jobs when teaching you to read. Not once does this woman complain, she works hard everyday and raises kids that aren’t her own with love then returns home to raise her own family and spend time with her own family, and then she turns around to say she is GRATEFUL… Not once does she complain. She is merely telling her story of what happens in her day.

    If a lady who wakes up at 4:30am (granted not the reality for all domestics, but for this lady in this case it is) feeds her kids, sends them to school, gets into public transport, feeds grown human beings and THEIR kids too, and then cleans up after a grown woman and plays with the woman’s kids, cleans her house, puts her kids to bed, cooks her food, performs her medial tasks and then goes home to look after her own family too for R3,500 pm and still manages to say that she is grateful for this opportunity is the definition of lazy then you really should consider having a serious chat with your previous educators because I think they have failed you and your parents in a very big way.

    As the one person stated too, yes there are problems everywhere in this world, but it doesn’t justify or lessen illtreatment.

    Secondly… Yes I will agree with you that the current government is inadequate and lacks the sufficient tools and compassion to service a socially system such as ours, however, once again, the way you raise your point is akin to a giraffe dribbling a soccer ball at high speed, highly unco-ordinated, and wobbly. Frankly, you come across as someone who doesn’t know what they’re talking about and just wants to latch on to whatever everyone else is saying to mask their inadequaties. Man you would LOVE it in America, the exact kind of person this government and media feeds off, don’t read too much, don’t think too much, but definitely latch on to common belief and rant on and on about it.
    If someone complains without proposing solutions then you’re actually no help, in fact you become worse than the perpetrator as you bring unhappiness to an already unjust system. Come up with a solution then boom, just like that, you become a visionary (albeit not a great one) and a problem solver. The reason the current government does as they do is because we have too many people who like to complain and vent under the anonymity of the Internet but never come up with an actual solutions.

    A good solution to the massive problem South Africa faces is free education an healthcare. The Nordic countries adopt it and all 5 of them are in the top 8 of the HDI year in year out. Now before I get slated, i understand that we have too much poverty in the country to have everyone’s tax contribution be relevant, however everyone under a certain earning level should have their education and healthcare subsidized by the rest of the country because a healthy educated population will lead to lower unemployment figures and more investment which then leads to a better economy which in turn leads to more prosperity and happiness and less need to commit crime. Anyways, I digress. This is not about a political lecture at all, it is about how incredibly wrong your views are. A human being has no right to judge another human being, however (and I apologise for this) your logic and morals throughout your comments and replies are incredibly questionable and indicative of someone who just has a chip on their shoulder.

    Anywas, that was long.

  13. After reading this article I can only say that I did a self audit and I’m ashamed that there are people who raise both their kids and their employers kids. They are called mums and wives yet don’t cook or take care of their kids day or night. Wheeeeeeeeeeeeeeew I’m shocked but learnt too. This mher does not work , lives like a queen and seems unreasonable. Gym lol is her job.

    • The sad part is that the mother isn’t realizing what she is missing. It isn’t a happy life either if you think about it. I hope she will one day realise that.

  14. There is a clear and distinct difference between employing someone as a maid and using them as a slave. The family mentioned here seems to think that the little salary they give their maid entitles them to human rights abuses. I would never ask someone to do something I myself am not willing to do, and serving employers breakfast in bed is one of the things I would not do. How humiliating it must be for her, hope she can find employement somehwere else with people who value her as a person, a human being.

  15. This is ridiculous and absolute rubbish. My family has hardly any money, yet we still employed two domestic workers. My parents paid for their children – totalling 6 – to go to school, and for 3 of the children to go to university. Each of the domestics have a month a year leave, and never worked on weekends. I have never owned a computer, yet 2 of the three children of the domestic workers’ who went to varsity were bought laptop computers. I have had to pay for the last three years of my university myself and my brother got through varsity purely on bursaries (out of necessity).

    The one husband of our one domestic worker was an alcoholic, who drank the minimum wage we paid her away, so my father and mother made sure they always gave her more, which was more than they could afford. My dad worked away from home for 18 years in the Transkei during and after the apartheid, and only came home on Friday evenings after work at 5pm, risking his life for 2.5 hours on the terrible N2 road to EL. He left on Monday mornings at 3am to get to work on time. He made this sacrifice so that 2 of his sons and 6 children of other people could go to school and have a better life.

    This is not a plea for thanks. This is my story of my life. This is the Lord’s truth. Do not rope me and my family in with your non-human mates and how they treat others. Everyone has a vote, and in all honesty, if the maid in your story and all the others who struggle like she does keep voting for the useless non-human ANC, they deserve the very worst. This appeasement from us whites for the lowly must stop. Pick yourselves up. Act like humans.

  16. O please …… we are a gay couple and live in a 2 bed flat – our helper works for us on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, she gets in at 08h00 and is off again by 15h00 – we have no babies and special diets and cook our own food. She gets all the public holidays and a month’s paid leave in December as well as a bonus and earns more than R 3 500 a month – you simply DO NOT get a decent domestic worker for less than that so have no idea where someone in Camps Bay will have a worker that comes in every day for R 3500 pm – this story is too far fetched. The ladies we had working for us all know we need them and are as demanding as the madam described above. We now have a “professional” relationship with Ann, we are no longer interested in hearing that her kids need this or that and had to grow a think skin as we have only been used and abused by helpers in the past to often.

    • i am inclined to agree with Jakes. Also know a family member who is single, pays his domestic worker extremely well, she only arrive between 9 and 9.30 am and is off home or elsewhere by at the latest 16h00. She does no cooking, she merely cleans the two bed flat and does the washing in the washing machine, washes the dishes (no dishwasher) and irons for the ONE family member. She has a one day a week job there and this is in Cape Town. I had a maid who used to arrive at around 7.30 only because I had to be at work by 8 and it is, sadly, a reality that not many people can be entrusted with keys to homes. I paid her far far more than I could afford but I felt that fair and morally right. It was in 1989 / 90. I am and was a single mother of three growing children, with no child maintenance and no alimony due to a financially abusive ex husband just told to illustrate how some South Africans really do try to make things easier and more fair for others . I actually phoned an agency that supplies maids to the public and asked them what they would charge per day; I already had the maid but my situation had changed so she could no longer live in and work a 5 1/2 day week. I had to employ her on permanent but daily basis. I opted, voluntarily, to pay this person the exact same amount that the agency would have charged me. Of course the agency would have taken a cut off the amount but I paid her the full amount. The appreciation I received? She and her son stole my uninsured video player (bought purely because due to reduced financial circumstances I had had to sell my mortgaged home and move into a one bedroom flat. My son was only 14 yrs of age and I figured if he wanted friends around for a birthday etc there was at least a video machine to entertain them. So to go back, she stole metres of curtaining out of my garage (I had trusted her with the key to the padlock – wrongly clearly despite having had her working for me for some years) she stole a gold and citrine ring given to me by my fiance etc etc. If we had more penalities and arrests for those individuals who steal and create these situations which lead to mistrust etc then people would be more inclined to entrust the security aspects to their employees but that is not the case generally. Sadly.

    I too was an exploited servant. To The State for A FULL 5 years. 24/7. No one wrote my story though, nor that of the 100’s like me who silently slaved to keep the health system afloat and whose back it is built. Like so many of my fellow “Registrar-Slaves”, we worked long unpaid hours… long into the night… to watch the sun rise again through barred ward windows. We would stop occasionally to note how bad we looked and smelled at the start of a ward round because we actually had not slept a wink in 48 continuous hours… or gone home to wash. Then we would proceed to hot, over crowded OPDs with no air-conditioning and reeking of the stench of dried blood, pus and warm bodies. Or we would descend into the bowels of a theatre complex where staff, materials and drug shortages kept you on your toes to improvise. No breaks – no piss break, no water break, no food break. Just work until its over… and it is never over… because the patients keep coming. First meal of the day is at 5.30pm when you manage to escape to the hospital shop and grab the last desiccated pie in the warmer… Otherwise nothing… until you get home and eat whatever doesn’t look too old to make you sick… and collapse if lucky, after you got to speak 3 sentences to your neglected spouse. Then you wake up again at 2am because someone dialled the wrong registrar on call… at least that’s better than having to get in your private car which no one pays you for, and drive back to the casualty …50km down a lonely highway on the coldest night of the year… And you hope you only have to this once tonight. If all goes well you get to wake at 4.30am before anyone in your home stirs, you try not disturb them. They don’t see you leave… and usually don’t see you when you get in. You clench and swear the whole drive to work, as speeding taxis, never-ending road works and Joburg traffic conspires to keep you for 2hours in a carbon-monoxide fog… just so you can look bad when you arrive 10minutes late to your ward round.

    • dont registrars earn in the region of R528 770 per annum – R44k per month. Not bad,i would also work 24/7 for that kind of money especially considering i will earn R962 174 as a principal specialist once i qualify or even potentially far more in private practise.

    • Vee, please man, your plight is far from this. I have many doctors, medical professors and specialists within my family and circle of friends. I know exactly how much work is put in to get where they are today. BUT, and its a big BUT, and this is where the difference lies, THE REWARDS ARE REAPED!!! the years of hard work pays off. And only after a few years. In fact, even whilst you are working these hours, you are still reaping the rewards. And you probably get overtime too. 2 hours in a carbon monoxide fog??? i think that’s a bit exaggerated, i think i’d be safe to assume that you have your own vehicle, travel by yourself and not exposed to coming into contact with lots of people that she would be using public transport. Lets not forget to mention your own carbon footprint.

      And lets just clear up a few other things. You are pursuing a career as a specialist is just that, you are pursuing your career. you are pursuing growth. This woman is doing it to survive. If you feel that your spouse is neglected, then you can remain a GP, you will still earn a very decent salary and work an 8 to 5 job.

      Just one more thing though, being a medical professional should be taken up by people who acknowledge that they are carrying out a service to humanity. And most that i know share this sentiment. That is why they do it. So if you feel so aggrieved for doing it, then maybe you need to reflect on that.

    • Why is it that doctors and trainee doctors are the biggest whiners around in South Africa? Sure, your workload is tough while you’re studying. And then you’re qualified and it no longer is. And guess what, even while you’re a trainee, your remuneration is exhorbitant compared to MOST of the population. Sure, conditions in public healthcare is not ideal but it really affects patients way more than healthcare workers. And again, once your training is complete, you move on and your workload and hours are reduced dramatically. Plus, you end up charging partients no less than R500 for 20 minute consultations. Sorry, no tears for doctors or trainees doctors; you guys are in positions of privilege.

  18. Why do you have children (and so many) if you are a domestic worker? Maybe you should first use whatever little money you have to educate yourself rather than spending it on children and never escape your poverty. If you can’t figure that out for yourself then you are dumb and deserve to be at the bottom of the food chain. No sympathy

    • And where is she supposed to get effective birth control. I did a research project and went to 3 different free clinics in 3 different neighbourhoods. Soweto, Randburg and Thembisa. I asked for birth control. What the nurses told me was here just take the pills. Mind you they never explained them to me they never once spoke of effects. Just take the pills is not effective because there are certain days that you’re supposed to start, i.e the first day of your period on a new pack. I mean c’mon. You think these women don’t try, clearly even if they did it would not be enough. Its not like they can afford to have their tubes tied. Its not like their husbands are into using condoms. I’m sorry that sympathy is something that you don’t have, how about some empathy.

      • Helloooo… I don’t even use birth control, but I don’t have kids, because I can’t afford it. It is sad if you marry someone who doesn’t care if you fall pregnant and don’t think about how they will feed their children.

  19. Both our domestic and our gardener stay with us at our house, the domestic in the Maid’s quarters where she has a small living room and kitchen a bathroom and a bedroom, the gardener has a Wendy house at the bottom of the garden.

    They’re both like family and I think they’re moderately happy in their day to day lives.

    I do feel a extreme amount of guilt for how messy I’ve been in the past. I’ve just started living by myself overseas and I’ve learnt very quickly how to clean up after myself. It doesn’t require that much effort so I’m angry at myself for being such a little dirty sh*t when I was younger.

    When I return home for a short while soon, I’ll be incredibly appreciative of both our domestic and gardener.

    I plan to return home to SA when I’m finished with my studies and when I have my own house I’d love to have a domestic as a extended family member. Also when I have children, I think I’ll have a full time domestic.

    I still remember my previous domestic from when I was growing up, she was like my second mother and she still has a very special place in my heart and I’m so excited to see her and her son whenever they come up.

  20. The callous nature of some if these responses defies the very category that these perpetrators and promoters of human injustice fall into – privileged.

    On one hand we have an irrational, condescending voice lacking in any intelligent thought or compassion making extremely generalized sweeping statements harboring on racism. First and fore most, as a PUBLIC school teacher I will tell you this much – just because you send your children to a private school they are not going to get a ‘better’ education. There are shitty teachers at public and independent school alike. If you think paying more money ensures a better education or educator that is a joke. The ONLY thing it ensures is better opportunities in terms of resources and smaller class sizes. A lot of these independent schools function on nepotism, employing educators far less qualified than myself because they are ‘old girls’ or ‘old boys’.

    In reference to your ‘my child will get raped comment’ and your unwavering belief that if they go to a predominantly white independent school then they are ‘safe’ – think again. My partner attended a well-known independent school in which at the age of 16 was engaged in a sexual relationship by one of her educators. The man also happened to coach the girls of a certain sporting discipline there and even though a female educator found out about the relationship nothing was done by the school and to this day that man has access to young girls. While he may not have raped her, he used his age and position of power to influence her for his own needs. This is the ‘safety’ of independent schools you refer to.

    Also I fail to see the impressive nature of a school that takes a ‘c’ student to a ‘b’ student in a class with less than 20 learners. Is that supposed to be impressive? How about a teacher who has a class of 38 children who don’t speak English as a first language but despite that barrier takes these kids from a fail mark to a pass mark by matric. That is REAL teaching.

    As for all the other ignorant supposedly educated people’s comments on here, I must say it doesn’t shock me. The distinction between adolescence and adulthood other than physical maturity is mental maturity in the form of empathy – clearly some of you never made it passed 16.

    Until the day you understand what real hunger is and trying to figure out where your next meal will come from, until you lie awake at night agonizing over the fact you can’t afford to pay for your childs medication – not by choice but by circumstance – until THEN…please go back to the holes you crawled out of. You say the poor shouldn’t have children, I have more pity for the child asleep in your household, growing up in your ignorant home of judgment and intolerance. That child I pity.

    Truth of the matter in this country is public servants are underpaid. Teachers, doctors, nurses, police officers etc. The government is corrupt but corruption is as blind as justice and sees no colour. A thief is a thief, not black or white.

    The story of this domestic worker is NOT the story of all of them but is a story most of them will be able to relate to.

    The harsh truth of this country is not everyone has the same opportunities and the luxury of finding another job that will pay you a higher income for what is considered ‘unskilled labour’ is not a luxury that exists. Ironically this so-called unskilled and lazy labourer has worked and will continue to work harder than most of us will ever work in our lives.

    I am fortunate enough to be able to go earn a better teaching salary overseas in the future. An opportunity domestic workers will never have.

    • You are correct, empathy is important. But I think you’re confusing “a lack of empathy” with “being realistic”

      You’re also guilty of sweeping generalizations, but aren’t we all?

      “You say the poor shouldn’t have children, I have more pity for the child asleep in your household, growing up in your ignorant home of judgment and intolerance. That child I pity.”

      Pity, at the start of this statement, I was hopeful you’d be offering a solution. But no. Are the middle class ignorant because they practice family planning? I think you need to look at the facts again, buddy. The middle class pay for any services the poor receive. You should pity them, it’s damn expensive.

    • Why would a domestic worker not have the opportunity? It is never to late to learn, or is it? At this point in my life I don’t have any tertiary education, but I am not giving up on the dreams I have of travelling and doing things I LOVE!

      • Why would a domestic worker not have the opportunity? It is never too late to learn, or is it? At this point in my life I don’t have a tertiary education, but I am not giving up on my dreams of travelling the world and doing things I LOVE!

  21. Although this article is not the reality of all domestic workers, it certainly is a reality for many workers and domestics.
    I had a domestic that my parents eventually gave her money to set up her own little shop and retire. She worked for us for 18 years and came with us on many road trips ).
    Last year we retiled my father in laws place and we hired some tilers that were recommended to us from the supplier.
    We ate lunch with them, and this is where we learned that it takes them 1,5 hours to get from their home on the far west rand of Johannesburg into the northern suburbs of Johannesburg ( where most of their tiling projects are). This, as one guy mentioned in a comment, is not a choice of these people but a necessity to feed their family and have some sort of roof over their heads at night. We may not all be able to help physically but if we show some compassion and tolerance and not ignore these issues, we can all make this a better place.

  22. We have a 5 month old little one and my heart broke (and continues to break) after reading that the maid’s little one does not get to see her mother all day, only breastfed for a month and is in the care of an 11 year old throughout the day. My heart BROKE.

    Naseema and company, your Narcissistic Disordered Personalities are on full view on this comments section. How on earth compassion escaped you can only be explained by the fact that you are EVIL creatures.

  23. R3500 is way too little for the amount of work that this lady does, although I do appreciate that she is grateful for her job. The social injustices in this article are staggering… one month old baby at crechè while having to look after the child of a woman who would rather be at gym than play with her own baby?
    For R3500!?
    This is a sin. Apply for a job in an office, they pay R2000-R3000 more than that (just checked on careers24)

    • Kirsten – seriously, if it wa so easy to get a job in an office for someone probably uneducated and unqualified, all the domestics would be working in offices. They can’t get any other jobs – that’s why they are doing what they are doing.
      And no matter what they do in your houses – THEY DESERVE RESPECT.

    • Drew, I agree with you… I have a general worker who also helps me with my own children sometimes to keep an eye on them if I need to attend church meetings etc, and I am guilty of getting angry when I conveniently open my cupboard and a certain piece of clothing is not there after a nice hot shower after i woke up peacefully from a good night’s rest in a warm Kingsize bed, and yes black people irritate the living hell out of me because i think most of them is spiteful and act stupid, coz in my industry i deal with mostly black people. But some of them are different, like my worker, i realised that she is also just another woman like me, a mommy, a person who needs to feed a family but she unfortunately does not get everything the easy way like I do. Today i just realised how blessed I am for everything i have. I have nothing to complain about. My workers name is ‘Fortunate’ and today I take my hat off for her for everything she does for my family. I have never treated her badly but i will think twice the next time i get upset about something.

      And for all the haters who commented by saying ‘if you dont like the job get out’ IF IT WAS SO EASY THEN THEY MOST PROBABLY WOULD GET ANOTHER JOB IDIOTS!

      I am also not happy with my day job but you cant just walk out,

      I cant even imagine waking up my 4 year old son 05:00 in the morning so that my girl of 10 must WALK by herself and take him to creche that just totally breaks my heart.

      People really need to see soften up a bit, there is NOTHING wrong with having compassion for somebody who really deserves it.

      • @Maggie,

        You lost me when you said “yes black people irritate the living hell out of me because i think most of them is spiteful and act stupid, coz in my industry i deal with mostly black people. But some of them are different, like my worker”.

        Get a grip and lose the racism. We’re not all racist here and please…, you and I share no semblance of sorority if that’s how you speak of human beings. I feel dirty that you included me in your post.

  24. My domestic’s husband said he wanted to start a business, so I offered to give him one of my gas skottels and a garden table and chairs and said to him I would further stake him r500 in boerewors and rolls and butter and he could grow the business from there selling boerewors rolls. he said no thanks, he wanted r5000 in cash (which I could never afford) so he could buy a machine to sell airtime. ungrateful and lazy! I started off working for r540 a month, less than our company drivers were getting at the time, and put in huge hours to still earn a pittance to this day when i see what my old mates are earning in other professions.

    • Maybe he is smart, airtime is in much higher demand than boerewors rolls and machines mean the business is scaleable. Maybe he thought you could afford it for the value of the other equipment you were willing to donate. Can’t blame him for trying!

  25. Our housekeeper is driven to and from work daily in a safe car and comes in at 9am and leaves at 4:30pm, she is not expected to cook or mind any children. She cleans and irons, I do all washing myself and make use of the dishwasher as much as possible. She also gets a Christmas bonus on top of paid leave and lunch daily. They are like any employee and should be treated accordingly. I understand that sometimes she will be sick and life happens, I have sent her home on an occasion when she shows up ill wanting to work. Please note the travel problem staring low income people in the face and assist them, if you cannot provide transport yourself , then add the fares to their salary.

  26. Naseema, I feel sorry for you. You’re one strange and deeply troubled person who clearly has issues.

    Your lack of sensitivity is shocking.. Just because you walked from door to door etc does not mean that now you’re miss survivor and should go around showing no compassion. I think your problem is that you’re bitter because of what you went through or perhaps just think highly of yourself now that you can’t show compassion for the next person because of “what you did”. This isn’t about YOU. Its about someone else and just because YOU did things a certain way certainly does not give you the right to comment on this person’s life. Besides, your situations are very different – did you have children to care for???? You need to see a counselor because you clearly have issues. If you have nothing good to say then don’t’ say anything at all because my dear, people suffer worse things than what you went through. Your struggle should actually have humbled you enough to have so much compassion for someone else. WOW

  27. This Article is so sad to read! The pure exploitation of this lady who runs this household, looks after, spends quality time with the kids while the parents cant show even a but more attention to them. To be honest the amount she is getting paid makes me sick if you look at everything she is doing including cooking dinner for the family most nights of the week. This is a prime example of how bad income equality is as result of the history of this country! not only that but CEO’s of Big massive corporations increasing profits more and more and therefore cutting the middle and lower class out enough income to just live and survive in thus thing we call life. It’s getting worse and worse all the time!

    I cannot believe that this hard working women is getting peanuts for a 10 hour day! That is rediculous! What happened to paying people who work for you what they deserve or at least a fair wage to compensate for their skills,time and hard work!

    one of the many big questions that arises is, what can be done about this? What should you and I do to improve equality in all the forms it occurs in this country as it is a massive problem!!! But to be honest the very high income-earners who exploit their workers so that they can gain more and more as a result of hard work from their staff is ludicrous! I’m Sorry but this scenario and all others similar to this is also due to Old-School Mentalities stemming perhaps from the Apartheid error in this country and capitalism and just pure Human greed! The super wealthy just want to keep more and more money to themselves while treating their staff who allow them to make all the money really badly.

    The Mentality in this country towards employment especially in a case like this is completely twisted and perverse. The amount of different tasks she has to perform in her job for the pay she is receiving is unacceptable! I am disgusted by the parents especially knowing that they probably can easily afford to pay her a fair wage! But not only that She is looking after, playing with and basically nurturing these kids as they grow up! Where’s the Mom in all of this! Jeepers!!!!!

    There are so many different things at play but mentalities need to change in this country. Many of you can mention many other things that I have perhaps not pointed out, but being hard on this Women for working as hard as she is working and the tasks she is performing for what she is getting paid! Let alone the way she is being directly and indirectly treated is just unfair in all senses of the word! Hopefully one3 day the government of this country will step and make a real difference to narrow the gap of inequality in all of it’s forms.

  28. It’s fascinating to me how the comments section of this article, are more revealing about how little compassion people have for those who have less than them, than the actual article itself is. Please God, change our hearts

  29. My domestic has been with me for the past 8 years. Twice a year the labour department does a home visit to check if all our paperwork (wage slips, contract, time chart) is in order and to see if my domestic has any grievances. I pay my domestic a living wage, not a minimum wage as per the department. What surprised me was the department official asking me why I choose to pay my domestic more than the required amount ?!? My domestic is truly a godsend, she is part of our family aswell as her son. Many people complain about lazy domestics, demanding domestics and so on but remember it’s a two way street. As employers we have certain rights but look at your domestic as a fellow human being, a mother, a daughter, a sister, a wife – they have lives beyond our homes and they are human just like you and I, so when they having a bad day overlook it because we have those too. They face challenges that we are unaware of, so take time out to find out if there’s anything you can help with, it will go a long way in building a solid relationship with your domestic.

  30. As a South African living now in Australia I pay a lady R250 an hour clean the house twice a week to take the stress off of my wife who looks after four young kids, she doesn’t cook babysit etc , seems to me the musgrave mummies are alive and we’ll.i also thought that providing a job was good enough when I lived in South Africa.

  31. This article is unfortunately very true for many domestic workers and gardeners in South Africa. Yes, those of us who treat our domestic workers well can recount those stories here, but the truth is those instances are few and far between.
    Many employers of domestic workers don’t even know about the hardships their domestic workers face, so articles like this could serve as an eye opener for those people… it’s a sad but true fact that few people think about life beyond the safety of their high walls and electric fences, few people can imagine the poverty that even the people who live with them are faced with.
    Our domestic worker works for us some days and my best friend others. My best friend is a kind, loving person – but our domestic worker has told me how little she pays her and other ways that she is treated badly. For my friend, I know it’s just a lack of education. When I’m with my friend, I sometimes weave in stories about the hardships our domestic worker faces and my friend is always completely shocked. She is slowly changing her ways as her eyes are opened.

    I agree with the comments above, know what you can afford to pay someone and then only ask for the correct amount of time/hours from that person. Pretend you live in Canada or wherever – yes, there are maids there, but it is a luxury to have a maid and they are paid well. It should be the same here.

    I read this article last year about how one family’s came to pay their domestic worker a living wage and it was a big eye opener for me:

  32. It would be simpler if people just cleaned their own homes.

    Agree on a number UPFRONT. Agree on duties UPFRONT. Have a CONTRACT UPFRONT.

    Maybe part time?

    Id just rather not have a maid, it honestly seems like too much bother.

  33. Introduce the radical socialist option and put an end to the capitalist state. Yes, there will be a decade ot two of transitional issues but if applied fairly and diligently it will lead to a better human development for all in South Africa.

  34. I understand this article is generalised for domestic workers who are underpaid/paid a salary that isn’t liveable. Unfortunately, its the reality of SA where even graduates are only earning R4500 a month after they intern for free for months.

    Some people treat their domestics like family, support them and their families and pay them decent wages where others don’t. The CCMA is there for domestics that are working for below their salary.
    From this article, if the domestic is to work 5 days a week, do cooking, cleaning and child caring then she must demand a higher salary. For a Camps Bay family, her asking for a raise can’t hurt as most families with a decent heart would pay extra for a woman they trust to take care of their kids!

    If people want to be harsh on their domestics then the CCMA will get justice for the worker, its one of the best institutions in this country for persons who are abused and underpaid in the workplace.

    At the same time, its not the families fault that she has so many children to take care for of her own, we are all entitled to have a family but I was brought up to never bring a child into this world unless I could afford it and afford to spend time with it. While R3500 is a measly pay, its nothing when you have 4 children. Why must the family pay the maid more like R6000 pm just because she has to support children? Yes, the worker could find a new job that requires less hours but in this economy? when there are so many other domestics willing to put in the same hours for the same pay…the grass is never greener on the other side.

    Sad reality

  35. Complete BS…. You can’t generalize that all domestic workers are treated in this manner and make it out as if all white South Africans are like this…

  36. Sad to see people who don’t know what compassion is! perhaps they also grew up up like slaves and wnever recieved compassion or they are just plain spoiled brats who grew up to be adults who are stupids., the mere fact you would compare races and if they have an equal history of segregation in SA shows how ignorant such people are, there is no need to remind a person who is working hard to work hard thats plain stupid!
    We all know we must work hard but do not ignore the history of the race that is influenced the type of wrk they are in in this current government. (Naseema and Michael) Huge twats.

  37. Gnash – I don’t wish for anyone to be exploited. But it seems to me that all you want is for one class to prosper under their own set of rules. Rules that the rest of us cant live by, because we’re bound by the rules OF THE REAL WORLD.

    If the domestic is paid too little, then she must either negotiate for more or she must go find another job. That’s how a free society works.

    A stupid is someone who doesn’t use their brains. Someone who questions another person’s compassion when presented with facts that are uncomfortable.

    This makes it very hard for people who are undecided about getting a maid. Do you really need the added drama? So many reasons to not hire one (and I’m not even being sarcastic).

  38. each to his own, I say. do unto others as you would have done unto you. we cant change how others do life, but we are responsible, but we do have a huge stake in how we do life as individuals.

  39. Think, for one minute, just one minute, why so many women in SA are domestic workers, and so many men are gardeners. It’s called apartheid. It denied them an education. It denied them the right to reach for a dream. They have no possibility of improving their lives because they were denied the right to do so for so many years. You may argue that there are the rare few that have changed their lot in life, but the majority are disadvantaged and will never ever pull out of the impoverished situation that they find themselves in. It is an ill-fated generation. I respect every woman and every man that works as a domestic worker or gardener in this country. They don’t only deserve our respect, but also a very humble apology.
    Oh, and some of the comments on this article are utterly, utterly disgraceful and inhumane. They make me feel sick to my stomach.

  40. All those responses saying that this is a generalisation…or…not what I do…or…thats life…blah blah. You all know there is a strong element of truth in the story. SA built on unhappy exploitation of people in weaker positions. Her kids grow up knowing Mum was treated like this….and they dont forget. Self righteous responses to a sad indictment of a malaise that has been entrenched in SA for generations. Reality is that only a few domestics were/are treated like they would like to be treated. The rest is LIP SERVICE !!!

  41. as a foreigner living in South Africa, I cannot even stand the word ‘maid’. To me it sounds so condescending and still very close to the word servant. At least call these adult women domestic workers or something. Even worse in my ears is ‘garden boy’. I shudder every time someone says it. How can you call an adult man working in your garden ‘garden boy’??!! It is indeed a strange culture here, this culture of having people do a lot of your manual work for you, from household to garden to washing your car…Yes, everyone thinks they treat ‘their’ domestic worker better and well etc. but still very strange when coming from the outside like I do.

  42. Heartbreaking story though i do believe had her employers not been messy, self absorbed people she would indeed be out of a job and worse off. Though their are domestic workers who have it much better, there will always be those self absorbed parents who think they can simply ‘purchase’ a slave for R3500 P/M (which is most likely pocket change to them) and treat them like complete garbage. Apartheid won’t be fixed over night, not even after 20 years of ‘freedom’, it will take a few generations but with domestic workingers (and others) willing to work this hard for their children, we will surely see a change… eventually.

  43. MMMmmmmm…we treat ours with respect & dignity, she also contracter HIV from her bf that she organised to rob us of about R150 000 worth of stuff. We didnt fire her, we gave her ARV drugs free of charge. We gave her clothes & and free medical check-ups for her daughter. She then robbed us again twice. The second time it was my mothers jewelry from her childhood (only thing she had left) and about R 6000. When we begged her to bring back the jewelry & told her to keep the money (she denied everything), the jewelry myseriously popped up agian. (some humanity there i guess). She then went through my gf’s bags and stole another R1000. She is still with us because we are trying to play it smart and not get sued. Maybe somebody should write an article about a day in the life of god damn stupid white people hoping that some people change and the things we stupidly do in that regard.

    • Dear Ivan.

      You are too kind shame I’m sorry, that’s just too much kindness being exploited by someone who is unappreciative. i hope one day you will hire someone who is more deserving of you kind soul

  44. No. This is the life of a South African maid in a rich, stuck up family. Luckily, not all people treat their helpers like this. They have families too, everyone needs to respect that and bring up your own children for once!

    • And just how did they become rich? Over night? No, maybe they worked for their money and someone else decided to steal it, huh? Is that fair?

  45. Total disrespect for another human being.
    Shame on you white South Africans .. you call her a maid…. but you still use her as a slave.
    A little advice for these so called white families … get off your fat asses and fend for yourself.


    Proud Aussie.

  46. Why do they always put on the negative and expound on it….. only to sell ideas and papers….. why not take the myriads of happy maids and put their ideas on….. mine are part of the family.. these comparisons are only to fire racism and does nothing to eradicate it…. granted there are a few cases that are really bad…. but counteract their stories with a few good ones for an equal balance…..

  47. I worry when I read some of these comments.

    1. The people who are currently domestic workers are so because they were never allowed an education. Apartheid happened. An unjust system that was engineered to enable such occurrences actually happened. It’s effects are still apparent today. Remember that her children will now also receive an inferior education because their parents can’t afford it. They will again fall under the pool of unskilled and only qualify for the same job their mother did. Again this fuels the cycle. The fact they still have the courage to stay in such a job shows an unbelievable character fiber.
    2. This is the story of one domestic worker. Whilst it is not a blanket truth, it is quite reasonable to say that this is true for a vast majority of domestic workers. Say what you want, really say it, but we all know that this is the general trend. When you visit your friends at dinner parties and the food is is still warm at 20:00 but you know he/she doesn’t cook? Who made it? What time did that person leave?
    3. I often hear statements such as; “If you don’t like your situation change it”. Oh God I don’t even know where to begin. All I will ask you is, what resources does this Domestic Worker have to “change” her situation. What weapons are in her arsenal? Please oh wise ones, enlighten us.
    4. The responses to this article have been SHOCKING to say the least. Naseema you are racist and firstly unable to see your own privilege ans secondly you show an inability to think or reason; you are stupid.

    There is no reason for anyone to be treated with so little dignity. There is no reason for people to be exploited.

  48. I treat my domestic very well and pay her well too she only comes in twice a week from 9:30-4:30 she does washing ironing and cleans my place. She takes pride in her work and I also give her a bonus in December over Christmas. At least she is grateful and not greedy.
    My brother and his family had a domestic worker who was also paid very well to clean their home and she betrayed them by bringing her boyfriend and 6 other armed men into their home and tie them up along with the kids and rob them! After the horrific incident my brother and his family have moved away. They are traumatized and can’t stay in SA any longer. To this day they haven’t recovered any of the stolen items nor have the thieves including the domestic caught. There is no justice in SA and that is the sad reality! This government has failed us!

  49. I am an ex-South African now living in Canada and can tell you that you don’t know what you have and should definitely appreciate the help you get. If I want to hire a cleaner here it will cost me $20 an hour – that’s equivalent to R200!!
    Putting that aside though, I can say that having a domestic does make you lazy. I am 33 years old with 2 kids now and I can honestly say that growing up with a domestic did not teach me to be responsible for my home. I am not motivated to clean, iron and cook and it is a bad habit to not clean up after yourself. One that I find very hard to break and still work at everyday. On the positive side, I do feel like my kids will grow up and be more responsible and respectful of their surroundings and home and I think that can only be good for them. Although I miss having a domestic to help, I am truly glad I don’t have one anymore.
    I understand that some people live crazy lives with hectic schedules and that comes with its own limitations on your time so do what you must but remember to appreciate what you have and wherever you can try to be responsible too.

  50. Nothing puts a smile on my face than seeing a family treat their domestic worker as if she was part of it. They feed her, even clothe her (and not old clothes but new ones bought for her). They’re human after all.

    We had a maid whose daughter fell pregnant in her teens. She asked my mom if she could come live with her because our maids mom wants her out the house. My mom said yes. We had to move and my sister took our maid who in turn took the baby with and my sister had no issues with her bringing the child with to work. She was an awesome maid. She served, not worked. Difference. When she passed away we all cried.

    When I was younger my maid used to walk to my school so that I wouldn’t have to walk home alone. She made me a sandwich and made sure I was okay and then retired to her room. She babysat me on occasion but she did stay on premises so that made it easier but my mom never told her last minute.

    Today as an adult I treat every maid I meet with respect. At my previous employer I treated the cleaner there with so much respect and also gave her things. One day I got to my desk and there were hand picked roses from our garden in a vase that she had picked specially for me. My co-workers were jealous and my boss said its because I didn’t treat the cleaner as a 2nd rate citizen the way they do.

    They’re human. I wish I could afford to pay a cleaner the salary they deserve!

  51. This cannot be true for every South African maid. Either the employers are rich, or the maid is over exaggerating their expectations of her. My parents laid down a couple ground rules for our domestic workers: 1: the arranged time of work starts at 7:00 and ends at 18:00. If they cannot comply with this, they must discuss a possible solution with the employers the previous day. My house has maid quarters, so travel time is not an issue. 2: You, as the maid, are allowed to go buy groceries (only for yourself, unless stated otherwise) during working hours as long as you ask for permission from the employers. 3: making Breakfast is not mandatory, but can be asked for occasionally on the previous day. same applies for dinner. 4: Don’t bother the employers if they are asleep, don’t even go into the MasterBedroom while they are sleeping. 5: You break it, you buy it. 6: Stealing will result in immediate unemployment. 7: ”Nanny-ing” is not required, but fetching kids from school is regularly asked for. for the gardenboy the only rule is: don’t come into the house unless absolutely necessary. lunches can be organized for you. Owners should be able to communicate their own schedules to the domestic workers, domestics can be asked to look after the property and the pets when the owners are away on holiday. Unless stated otherwise, the property will remain secure (alarms activated) until the owners are back. domestics may park their own cars at the residence at their own risk. if the prev mentioned cars are stolen from inside the yard, the domestics must help pay for any damages to the property.

    • and years ago, I was still in primary school, I complained to my parents about my toys being missing. me and my parents searched in the house for my toys, we couldn’t find them. my parents then searched the maid’s quarters and they found it there. needless to say, the maid was fired because she disrespected my family by stealing from us, even though we’ve been nothing but respectful to her. we told our current maid, that we won’t tolerate theft and we’ll ensure it never happens again.

  52. South African’s with MAIDS are simply lazy! There is nothing cool or classy about having a maid; its bad taste! In other developed countries middle class people with maids/help are frowned upon and seen as socially unacceptable. Domestic help should be about the HELP and not an excuse for vanity and wall-flowering or sloth! – Clean your own damn house and spend less money on junk!

  53. i think those who act like this sceanrio portrayed by this article does not exist are hypocrites or have subjective blinkers on. How many can truthfully answer that they treat their domestics as they are treated in their own places of work, for example the issue of the domestics child being sick and her not being able to attend to work that due to the fact that they had attend to that issue, how many employers chastise them from that,whereas these employers in their respective workplaces have such issues are easily excused just by simply phoning on that day and they state they have to attend to that specific problem and they wont be coming in or they are going to be late. how many employers respond the same way to their domestics in the same predicament? the same way their corporate bosses or HR managers react to them.. this is just one of the issues mentioned in the article, there are many other aspects in this article where one can point out how fair we treat our domestics. This article really just prompts us to objectively look at the way we treat our domestics and compare it to the way our corporate bosses or HR managers treat us(since domestic work is also a work situation), not justify our actions by subjectively looking at the certain things we do right in terms of our work relationships with domestics.

  54. How can you pay 3500 a month for such a lot of work, when your clearly can afford what its worth at no loss to you? Why must you be so stingy on top of all this? That work is worth 1000 a day you should be paying at the very least a third of that plus transport – so that’s 6 days a week at 333.33 a day = 8000 p/m + transport at 150 per week = 1200 per month. Grand total 9200 p/m .

    You should be paying at least R9200 per month for someone to do this specialised work, knowing all the specific needs of your family, and coming from Khayelitsha to Camps Bay.

    If you can’t afford that you can;t have such a service 6 days a week.

    These people are really taking advantage of the socio-political situation in this country and the legacy of systematic inequality, to rip someone off for years and years – so cheap and vulgar…

    • Wann, that is a very insensitive thing to say. Whilst she is lucky to have a job, she shouldn’t be expected to work such long hours, especially considering the lazy “lady of the house” doesn’t even work. She could get her gold-digging ass out of bed and make tea herself, instead of expecting her worker to be there so early, and then leave late because she doesn’t cook – what exactly does the useless woman do – make babies and then what? She is clearly incapable of doing anything even vaguely selfless or useful. She shouldn’t even be a mother. Rich people are so out of touch with the real world. Her worker is a human being, with children, regardless of what race she is, or on what social / money scale, she deserves respect. I respect her way more than I do Catherine. She at least works for her money and takes care of her responsibilities as best as she can. Catherine has clearly landed with her bum in the butter and has probably never worked a day in her life, but instead just gets handed everything (not much more than a glorified prostitute). Talk about spoilt. She needs to take those blinkers off.

  55. I am so conflicted. My lady lives with us, cooks, cleans, etc. She can’t cook, can’t clean, but loves my son unconditionally. She has been with us since my son was 4 months old. He is now nearly nine. We feed her, clothe her, give her a bonus and she gets 3 weeks leave in December. However, she gets about 5 days every three months to go home, and every two months takes two days to go to the nearest state hospital. She is HIV positive and needs to be monitored and collect medication. I pay her below minimum wage as we agreed that she would rather stay with us when I needed to let her go. She eats like there is no tomorrow, and is brazen about asking for a few Hunters Dry every so often, which she is free to drink anywhere she wants. I leave home at 6h30 each morning, and return at 19h30. I work hard to take care of my family, including my lady. So does my partner. She has a bedroom in the house, and gets to come and go as she pleases, is always included in outings and family gatherings. She has become family. Should I conform to law, and let her go as I would not be able to afford her salary, food, clothing, DSTV extra view (she loves Nollywood movies)? She says no! Do I feel guilty? Sometimes. I think we are legislated to death, but this is very necessary in many situations. To prevent abuse.

  56. Reading this just frustrates me even more. I mean, I’m forced to pay what I consider quite a lot in taxes; how hard is it to provide hard working people like this with cheap reliable transport TO EARN A FREAKING LIVING?? For instance there’s a crap ton of people driving from Somerset West’s direction to the CBD, why not a carpool initiative where you register and pick up someone in khayelitsha and get some government controlled benefit, like a petrol subsidy or being allowed to drive in the bus lane…probably won’t work, but geez just do something I’m sure there’s some way to improve that aspect of their live at least!

  57. As a new parent, to me this comes down to one thing people don’t know their responsibilities, don’t be a parent if you still expect to have ‘quite’ house time while someone else is spending quality time with your kids, get your priorities checked.

    This woman has no business having kids, she still wanna act like a mistress then she must get those tubes tide,

    Just because you have help, it don’t mean you become handicapped and you cant do-anything for yourself and anymore.

  58. My goodness reading some of these insensitive comments has left me feeling worse than reading the actual article. Always baffles me why people have to make things ‘all about them’. Why don’t you contact a journo to write a story about your own experience instead of ranting, bitching and dismissing someone else’s? The fact that you have that much anger means that you feel self-pity for times when you “struggled”. I don’t even want to get into the details but to me it’s like crashing a stranger’s funeral shouting “I TOO HAVE FELT LOSS!” We all have our painful experiences – why can’t we respectfully allow each to express without being so damn demeaning! Over-inflated sense of entitlement we have.

  59. OMG, I just went to google “What Jobs to Give Housekeeper/Nannies in Africa” and I came across this. I am so glad I did, very interesting read. Me and My husband have moved to West Africa a couple of months ago from Australia. I am a first time new mum also and Husband works away during the week(mining). It is all totally new to me but this week my Helper said that I am too nice and have to be more strict!!! I myself prior to motherhood was in a management position for a construction company so have had to be TOUGH as we say in Australia as a lady in management in construction LOL. Anyway I had a talk and I said that as long as everything is done and that she helps me with our baby I am happy. So each morning that she arrives, our baby is already fed by me, she then starts some washing and while I go to the gym she also puts Luca on her back and attends to our bedroom and the nursery, I am quiet a tidy freak. By the time I am back she has done upstaris and then I spend time with my boy while she does the rest of the duties, once she thinks all is done she checks with me and then I tell her to relax and just keep us company. I am not sure if I am being TOO NICE or if just her previous jobs have been a bit more harsh..I will ask her anyway. But I did say I would do a list up for her. So I am typing a “Daily” “Weekly” “Monthly” Jobs list to give to her tomorrow..Hope she is ok with it!! 🙂

  60. In my opinion, this is an example of “high society” living, BAD employers as well as BAD parents (the employers), and a domestic worker doing the best she can.

    I.t.o. being employers: We have help once a week. R170 for working from 08:00 till 16:00. ONLY cleaning and ironing. At 20-25 days per month, assuming she works all days of the week, would give her a monthly amount of R3400 – R4250. We make our own coffee, to drink in bed, and make our own lunch and dinner. She gets breakfast and lunch that WE make, and we drop her off a 100m or so from her house in the afternoon. We have a employment contract with her, stipulating the fair amount of paid leave, sick leave etc per year, as per the employment act guidelines. Therefore we also pay her UIF, so she can claim if she finds herself out of work anytime in the future. Babysitters go for about R150 for 4 hours. Given the amount of babysitting the lady in the article does, she should earn about an extra R6000 per month!

    As for parenting: Our 2 year old son is in creche 08:00-14:00 during the week, my wife works half-day to make sure she can spend the afternoons with him. No night nurse. How can these “Camps bay” parents call themselves parents if they have a night nurse, and a day nurse? When do they spend time with their children???

    The story is sad, and I am sure there are many more examples of “exploiting” domestic workers. However there are also al lot of us employing people on a fair basis, for a fair amount of work.

  61. it’s really sad for me as a young South African to read both this article and its accompanying comments, I like to think that we as a community in South Africa are capable of change, fairness, tolerance and empathy and am truly disappointed to see that this is not always so. I was raised to see all people, regardless of colour or any other “defining” characteristic as equals, as we are all human and all our blood runs red. This story is a sad one as it is unfair for any human being to be treated so unkindly, no matter their job description, and in my opinion it doesn’t have much to do with politics or the current state of our country at all. It is to do with human dignity, which we all deserve. As I was reading the comments I also noticed how quick many people are to judge and that too is not right, nor is it anyone’s place. No one is in anyone else’s shoes and we all have problems and challenges of our own and attacking one another’s opinions will not solve any problems or make anyone a better person. We all need to get over our issues, whatever they may be, and work together to make our country a better place for every person living in it. Perhaps I am wrong, as no one of us is perfect, but the least we can do for one another is try our best to be decent, kind and loving human beings.

  62. bunch of hypocrites. worried about whether it is “maid” or “help” or “domestic worker”. clean your own f****** toilets if you give a shit about other people.

  63. Oh my, can I just say that I have my Emmy working for me this last 16 years. She is wonderful! She is like a second mother for my kids and sometimes me. She rules our household! Firstly she can come in anytime she wants, I do my girls breakfast in the mornings and lunch boxes. She lives on the property, but we have built her a 3. Bed and 2 bathroom house, that is her security for old age as well as pension. If she makes coffee I get a cup and vice a versa. She is family and to make sure that she does not overwork, she has help twice a week and every weekend is an off weekend. She loves us and we love her.

  64. The problem is that the ANC government has sold out their own people, they are not interested in education, incentives for new and upcoming businesses, economic development, social development or moral development. .They only want to enrich themselves and their families. South Africa has one of the highest unemployment rates in the world. This creates the situation that the only work these ladies can get is a domestic worker job. Socialism cannot work and have never worked anywhere in the world. Who will do the hard work if everyone is paid the same, what is the incentive? Who will decide who gets what….President Zuma? I am not denying the legacy of apartheid, I’m just saying the problem would be a lot worse for all these millions of families if there were not the demand for domestic workers, where will these ladies find work, so saying everyone should clean their own houses or saying we must implement a socialist regime is not the answer to anything. The government must start acting with integrity and they must have empathy with the people and implement strategies that work. Encourage foreign investments and create a climate that reassure foreign investment and new industry and entrepeneurship, not a climate where everyone wonders where the money went or who stole what. Who will put up with all this nonsense if there are a whole host of other jobs for them to do.

  65. This is very sad, it reminds me so much of my childhood. It just hit me when I read the part about only eating meat on Sunday how similar my life was.

    Growing up as a white family in South Africa people assume you are privileged, but my father worked 6 and sometimes 7 days a week, 12 hours a day. If he was home on a Sunday, he slept. I use to ask my mother to show us a picture of my father as we never got to spend time with him.

    All our clothes were hand me downs or hand made. As a child I never thought we were poor until I became a teenager and started visiting friends houses, I could not believe the food they had in their homes or the presents they got from their parents. I was shocked when I realized just how poor we were, but my parents gave up so much to give us just enough.

    Sometimes we got food from the school dispensary, this made us all feel very embarrassed. Our roof leaked terribly, we had weeks at a time with no water and some times with no electricity. None of my friends wanted to come visit our house because they said my parents made them work too hard, but it’s all we ever knew to do. We collected scrap metal, coldrink tins, anything we could take in for cash. My parents planted a small garden, this was our vegetables, when they were finished, we had no money to buy vegetables, it was considered a luxury, so was fruit. I was 17 when my mother bought me my 1st dress and until today I never had the opportunity to wear it because we couldn’t afford to go to the function it was bought for.

    No matter how bad it got, my parents still managed to help people less fortunate than us. They would visit people who lived in tents and caravans, they would bring their children to our house when it was too cold in the caravan. My friend died at the age of 7 from gas poisoning in a caravan. Her father fixed a whole in their tent that day and that night a family of 4 died in that caravan.

    I have family that are very stable financially and I have family that live in back rooms with no bathroom or water in the rooms. No work, no money and children to support. I have seen and lived in similar rooms myself. Unfortunately because of the cost of education a large number of family was forced to leave school between standard 5 and standard 7, but at least all know how to read and write. I have older family members that did not have this privilege.

    None of this stopped me from creating a better live for myself.

    I left my home when I just turned 18, I went on to suffer financially for many years before I could get on my feet and take care of myself. Today I am very successful, there is a lot of things I still don’t have, I have never had a lounge suit. I sit on a fold up bed that I use to sleep on until 3 years ago when I bought my 1st bed. It is ripped and torn now, but I don’t have the means to buy a lounge suit right now. I have no furniture other than the bed, a second hand fridge and a tv, but I am working towards financial freedom (so far it’s been 19 years).

    It will take me longer to acquire things, but I am working towards being debt free.

    I have some other luxuries, for instance I work long hours and therefore have hired a housekeeper to clean and tidy twice a week (this is a luxury and also the 1st time I’ve ever had help in the house). She starts at 8 am and leaves 3 pm on Monday’s and 2 pm on Friday’s as she wants to get to the shops early and do her weekend shopping. She has 5 children that needs to eat so I guess it’s a lot of shopping. (I don’t have a child as I can’t see how I can afford to have children when I’ve never even bought a couch, but that’s just my choice)

    This is a sad day in the life of a south african maid, but I promise you my housekeeper has a very different live.

    If any one would like to write an article on a day in the life of a poor white south african, I can point them in the right direction. I always tell my poor family to pull up their socks, if I could get out of poverty with no guidance and no education, they can too. If this applies to my family it applies to everyone.

    I may be off topic, but I try not to remember the poverty and rather remember the blessing. Even today I rather count my blessings. So when something reminds me what we lived through and then to read the comments just upset me today.

  66. It such a pity that this domestic worker has no choices! We should empower woman, give them choices in life, teach them about birth control. I am sure if woman had choices, they wouldn’t be having more children then they can support or even take care of.

  67. Howdy! This post could not be written any better! Reading this post reminds me of my old room mate! He always kept talking about this. I will forward this article to him. Pretty sure he will have a good read. Many thanks for sharing!|

  68. I think the comments on this actually left me feeling a whole lot more depressed than the actual article. I am a 27 year old who was raised by a single parent who was a domestic worker. Luckily my Mom worked for a family that treated her as a human, fairly and kindly. They…I refer to them as my ‘grandparents’ also helped raise me, put me through school and university. All that been said…guys no one wants to be a domestic worker by choice. I seriously doubt that anyone would go to be at night with the aspirations of been a domestic worker. For those of you bringing politics into this and saying that they should stop voting for the ANC…have you actually stopped to consider the fact that the reason that there are so many domestic is because education for non white people from the 50’s till the 60’s(the period of apartheid) was not exactly what you call above average hence a lot of black people are now left to do such labour. After reading some of your comments, I can only thank the Lord that my mom was blessed with employees with such good hearts. Some of you sound like the type of people who let your helper clean and look after your kids but won’t let her even shower in your house. We all human. stop treating people like sub humans just because they were less fortunate than you in life.

  69. 17th 18th century Cape Town, South Africa. In Jackie Loots book ‘Echoes of slavery’ Lady Barnard an aristocrat (1750-1825) comments. ‘The white inhabitants ‘mostly fat gross people’ as a result of a diet that included ‘a vast quantity of grease and butter’ and she thought them extremely indolent, for ‘they are not in this country active, but the labour is left entirely to the slaves’.

  70. cry me a river. the reality is a lot of people struggle to make ends meet, including domestic workers. it’s still work, the alternative is unemployment. whenever one feels sorry for oneself, just put a life in perspective. starving kids in africa, india. war in some countries. zimbabwe. there is inequality all over the world and this is not going to change. and just because affluent white and black people in the country have money, doesn’t mean they didn’t work incredibly hard as well, study long and endure stress. what majority of south africans need to do is to stop feeling sorry for themselves. south africa is not as bad as a great many places out there.

  71. ahh camps bay… say no more that is one of the most yuppie rich fucker area in all of south africa

    she says she spends all her money on school, perhaps you should write an artical about less spending on govt cars and more of subsidised schools ? and how about a maid tax ? and perhaps you could also write an artical about a well treated maid not this horid case of rich yuppies whom thing they should buy slaves for nothing,

  72. Is there any way to get hold of this domestic worker? I may be able to give her a washing machine and was wondering if I could contact her. Reading this pulled at me heart and would love to help her even in the slightest way

  73. Well, I have three degrees and two diplomas and half way through the month I have no food left at all. I have not been able to find full time employment for many, many years. I have been a single parent twice and my younger girl also went to creche at a few months old as I had to work. I still breastfed her, it is quite possible. My older girl and I used to scrounge cooldrink bottles around the neighbourhood so we could eat through the month. I have lost two homes because I could not make the bond payments. This maid sounds happy and fortunate to me, she has a two-salary family and a good job, transport (not to mention how much walking I have had to do in my life). Nothing to complain about here except her employees sound like really shallow people.

  74. Instead of adding more fuel to the black v white fire why didn’t the journalist take a more academic and balanced approach and do a comparison on how cleaners are treated by all races I.e. Black, Indians, Chinese etc etc. I am quite sure that you’ll fine that overall the white employers are not the worst. I am in no way excusing the behaviour reported but do believe it to be in a minority. Also as aSoith Africa has, because of the current government, truly been reduced to a third world country, why not do a comparison on how cleaners are treated in other third world countries. One has to acknowledge that both employees and employers have to protect themselves against abusers. If you’re not happy, make a change.

  75. And that is exactly why I do not have anyone working at my home anymore! I am also a single parent, and I get up at 4:30 too. I cook, I clean and do everything for my children myself. I am also currently studying. I have also been late on a few accoasions and had sick children often. I have lost jobs and I have lost homes. Some nights I did not have a lot of food. Sometimes I made that packets of instant soup. But yes, who has children so that other people should take care of them?

  76. Still interesting.

    We also had a young, live-in, domestic worker housemaid-girl in our household when I grew up. She was in her late teens and early-20’s when working for us.

    She was required to wear a uniform consisting of a light-blue, long-sleeved blouse and black trousers with a belt when carrying out everyday-worktasks like cleaning, cooking and washing, She also had to wear an apron for dirtier worktasks.

    For more special events, like serving, Sundays, Christmas or whatever, she was required to wear a black, long-sleeved blouse and a black, knee-length skirt with a belt and a small white apron.

    I know she hated this, but it looked good.

  77. They forgot that it is their people burning the transport and making it difficult for themself to get to work. Nobody is forcing them to work for whites! They either work according to the recommendations stipulated on the contract or find employment somewhere else. How does their black/indian/chinese/coloured madams treat them ?? How late must they be at their job etc for them and what must they do for them? Again the story here is: WHAT AM I DOING FOR THE WHITE MADAM !!! What does Susan Hayden try to achieve???? Another liberal trying to BOVRIL (swartsmeer) the whites !!! She must find a bovril herself and get out of South Africa and mind her own business !!!

  78. I have a helper in my house and I most certainly don’t treat her like this . I get up before she arrives and she has made me tea once in the year she has worked for us . I really appreciate her ironing and helping me and tell her this often . I have never asked her to do anything for my kids apart from the cleaning and ironing . I encourage my kids to make their own beds and tidy toys up although they don’t always get this right .She has to clean and that is more than enough to handle . She can wear whatever she feels comfortable in . She arrives at 8 am and leaves at 3 pm . I feel very sad to read this story and hope that there aren’t many South Africans treating people in this way. Certainly nobody I know treats their helpers like this .

  79. How very, very sad. If only the couple would real use the hardships imposed on their staff by a lack of recognition that they are employees who too gave rights and a voice. There can be no communication without recognition . It seems like very little has changed in South Africa.

  80. The reality is some people serve and others are served, this is true all over the world. I would have preferred this was not a black vs white scenario but rather a true reflection of The South African domestic worker, featuring more than one case study. I believe that in South Africa we pay far too little for help. I will not apologize for having help but I pay them adequately for the level of work I require. Making the bed and tidying clothes is really nothing to complain about – she is the domestic worker, the warning for travel is rather ridiculous but this goes to the core of our problems as society, she is and was displaced to the outskirts of the city, and that is where she has to travel from. Her employers should pay for her travel and if there is a strike they should Uber her. As for her own child – this is a universal story. We all leave our kids to go to work only a few priveleged don’t. If this family can afford a night nurse for their baby they can surely spend more money on their helper. My advise to the writer would be to pursue a different angle perhaps rights for domestic workers, and I would refrain from writing pieces that are meant to provoke guilt – white or any colour as you create drama, in South Africa and the rest of the world the race war has begun the battle lines are drawn and the ship has sailed. We can’t stop it now. I am a black South African – I have 2 domestic workers – I pay them far above the South Africa rate, 1 is sleepin and the other comes in at 7:00 daily, she lives a walking distance from me, we have a township close to our suburb, they often make me coffee in bed and sometimes oats, I tell them not to but they feel I shouldnt have to get up, they take my son who is 3 from me when they bring the coffee. They split chores get ample breaks and when we are on holiday they go home, they are off during Easter, Christmas and New Years every year. I make sure they have everything they need – I mean everything, From clothes, to clothes for their kids, tuition and I recently paid for my helpers sons initiation and ceremony. I cook for my family, my helpers often chop and prep for me, if there is transport issues I take them home. And for the sleepin who goes home monthly I pay for her travel. It is sad that some people in our society live in less than desirable circumstances but life is like that. It’s quite interesting the way this is written. It’s empty and I can’t understand the POINT.

  81. I stopped reading when I scrolled down and realised that this piece is a perspective of a *Catherine* trying to put herself in the shoes of a typical domestic worker. Most of the parts are exaggerated and lack a personal feel.

    If you are not going to at least do enough research to get real stories of real domestic workers, then why write the piece?


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