Beauty Gqukile, 49, lives in a shack overlooking mobile toilets in the veld near the Zamimpilo informal settlement in Riverlea in Joburg. Picture: Nokuthula Mbatha/African News Agency(ANA)

Johannesburg - Beauty Gqukile sits on a bunk stool with her back arched forward and her legs crossed. She picks up a crate next to the door of her rickety shack and in a generous gesture offers it as a seat.

Her shack overlooks mobile toilets lying in the veld near the Zamimpilo informal settlement in Riverlea in Joburg.

It was around noon and lot of children, some of schoolgoing age, walked about leisurely as the elderly did household chores.

Gqukile’s eyes were downcast as she seemed lost in thought.

The 49-year-old mother of three has been living there for 24 years.

She exists on the margins of survival from social grants that one of her teenage daughters receives.

“The grant money I receive doesn’t help me much. It’s difficult to pay school fees for the children.

“All I can use my R350 for is basic things such as maize meal, washing powder and school uniforms,” she says.

Last week, Oxfam International, a global confederation of charitable organisations focused on the alleviation of world poverty, released a report which revealed a widening gap between the rich and the poor.

According to the report, workers across the world continue to receive low wages despite working hard while their bosses net even billions in salaries, proving the age-old saying that “the rich get richer and the poor get poorer”.

The report, Reward Work, Not Wealth, also revealed that the world’s richest 1% bagged 82% of the wealth generated last year while the poorest half received nothing.

The findings are stark in places like Zamimpilo, where poverty and squalor are rampant. Before Gquikile moved there in 1994, she lived in Orlando, Soweto.

Her situation seems to have become bleaker.

“I sometimes do domestic work as R350 doesn’t do much for me. We have no choice but to raise our children in these conditions because we have nowhere else to go,” said the single mother, whose husband died nine years ago.

Ntombi Dlamini, 45, has been living in the settlement for 22 years. She also lives on a social grant, which she uses to raise her children and pay their school fees.

“Raising female kids is not easy as this is not a safe area."

“They are vulnerable as lots of children get raped and most of my children are girls."

“I sometimes do piece jobs where I can, but get very little from that."

“I earn between R80 and R100 a day, which is not enough.”

According to the Free Market Foundation (FMF), mass unemployment does not happen by accident because there’s always a fundamental cause. One of these is that desperate job seekers are always at the mercy of employers who dictate the terms of employment.

“Mass unemployment can only occur when there are powerful blocking agents that prevent unemployed people from negotiating with employers for jobs on conditions of employment and wages acceptable to them,” says FMF director Jasson Urbach.

He says the poor are willing to work hard rather than having “money thrown at them”, such as through being given government grants.

The Sunday Independent