Outsourced workers at NWU: “the little I earn has tied me to a cross of debts”

Since the student protests at North-West University (NWU) began, workers have been under strict instruction not to speak to the media. A few workers were frustrated enough to share their sentiments with The Daily Vox, but requested that we do not take pictures of them. Others asked for total anonymity for fear of losing their jobs. They spoke to GOPOLANG BOTLHOKWANE.

Benjamin Lebele, gardener
I have been with my current employer (Servest Cleaning) for over seven years now, and in all those years my working conditions have not changed in any way. I still earn the same amount I earned when I was starting. I don’t have any benefits or incentives. Although I am not protesting, I stand in solidarity with what these children are trying to do. The campus management cannot run the campus without taking us seriously. I now travel every day by bus. When I knock off late there are no buses and I end up struggling; it be would fair if there was transport organised for us to at least travel to work safely.

Mrs Ntshupeng, cleaner
We don’t have a nett income, today you earn peanuts, tomorrow it’s something else. I have daughter sitting at home with no work and no access to funds to study further at university despite the fact that I mop the floors of a university. We’ve been crying for long now that this university improves our situation but here we are. We complain, we are directed to our supervisor, the university won’t hear us, they say we must complain to our contractor. The kids (students) have been trying to raise our issues but I don’t see any progress and to be honest I am not very hopeful. To me, all this will end and we will go back to our poverty.

Victor Leepo, gardener
I would say I have it a little better than most of my colleagues, I am single with no kids and I live alone. I reside in Setumo Park, which is not very far from the campus and that means I save on transport. I have been here for seven years. I have seen graduates come and go, but that’s just about it, nothing else has really changed for me. Even the protests, I am not very hopeful about them. But maybe now that things have burned they may listen.

*Jacob Ndlovu, security guard
I have been with Hlanganani (security company contracted by the university) for over a year now and I already feel like I’ve been doing this job for over a decade. Before this, I was unemployed and when I found this job I thought finally my life will change, but as you can see nothing has changed. When it’s month end I get diabetic because the little I earn has tied me to a cross of debts. I am with the students in spirit and I hope things do change.

Benjamin Lebele, gardener
What we are paid is very disappointing, I can’t call it a wage, it’s a “thank you” handshake and you wake up to come to work for this “thank you” handshake because it helps you and your kids see another day. The youngsters say they are fighting for us but if they won’t listen to us the elders who keep the wheels of this university rolling. I have very little hope they’ll listen to them but there’s no shame in trying.

*Thapelo Moloi, security guard
There’s a lot of tribalism on campus when it comes to the treatment of staff, for example, many of us cry everyday about travel; that we stay far and it’s not safe sometimes but nothing was done about that. Until the students protested and suddenly there’s space for Fidelity guards to be based here, the very same Fidelity guards who shot at students. I’m sure you’ve seen how comfortably we walk around these students, that’s because they know and respect us. We probably would have done better had we been asked to have a say on the operations. I have a hard time disagreeing with the students because I know their plight.

*Names have been changed
Voxes have been edited for brevity and clarity

Featured image by Qiniso Mbili
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