Cape Town - My name is Patrick Maqhasha. I work as a cleaner for an outsourcing company contracted to one of Cape Town’s top universities. I support the #EndOutsourcing protest because it is the only way I can see myself overcoming the financial crisis I face. I am 62 years old and I have no savings for my retirement.
I live in a house in Khayelitsha with my four children, aged between 9 and 18. By the middle of November, we will have no place to live, because I can no longer afford the bond repayments of R2 800 a month.
I earn R5 000 a month.
My wife, Sindiswa, was a teacher until her death from cancer last year. As a teacher, she received a housing subsidy.
We were able to afford the bond on the R200 000 house, and she paid for the children’s school fees of R7 000 a year (for all four children) and their transport to and from school of R1 400 a month. Now that she is gone, I can no longer afford to live.
I took out a loan to pay for the funeral. I am living in debt. I have to take loans to pay off loans. In the middle of the month, I am happy. I know there is no money coming in. At the end of the month I am sad, because the money will come in and then all of it has to go out.
I don’t know what to do. If there is no electricity, I have to borrow money to buy some units. If there is no food, I will rather not eat than let my children starve. I am in crisis.
I get paid, and my company gives me no benefits – not even a pension fund. After I have paid for everything – the fees, the transport, the house – I still owe money. And there is no money left.
We want outsourcing to end. These companies don’t take care of us. We see the workers that work for university; they come in with transport, they get tickets to eat in the canteen, they have pensions, retirement planning and medical aid. They get subsidies.
If they earn the same as me, they come home with more money, because they are taken care of.
You know, the cleaners strike, then we strike – the university workers and the outsourced workers. We all strike for a percentage increase. The university agrees and increases the pay. Only the workers who work for the university receive the increase.
Our company tells us, we work for them, not the university. They will not give us an increase. The university gives them money, and that money doesn’t come to us.
We protest with the students because the students protest with us. They know it’s not fair. Outsourcing has affected me in a big way. I could have had more money in my pocket if I received benefits. I would be able to pay off my loan. Now I must make a loan in order to pay off other loans.
Our company tells us: no work, no pay.
But the university promised us they would pay. Where is there a way out? Where can I save? How am I supposed to put away for retirement? My children will also want to attend university. Where is that money going to come from?
They must receive an education so they don’t end up like me – not a cent to my name.
I’m trying to find a place to live. I have to be out of this house by the end of this month or mid-November – my house, the house that my wife bought. I heard somebody bought it for R10 000. How can I fight it? I don’t have a lawyer.
Where must I go with my four kids? Maybe next month you will find me in a shack. I am in crisis.
* This is Patrick Maqhasha’s story, as told to Cape Argus acting deputy news editor Lance Witten.
** If you would like to help Patrick, call Ray Japhta on 0214066344.
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