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‘Half of my pay goes to transport’ - domestic worker feels the pain of petrol price hikes

Beauty Mwrebi struggles to keep her family of five afloat on just one salary.

Beauty Mwrebi struggles to keep her family of five afloat on just one salary.

Published Jun 10, 2022

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As petrol prices increase, and minibus taxi fares go up, Beauty Mrwebi, 56, from Khayelitsha, like millions of other South Africans, just doesn’t know how she gets by from month to month.

Mother of four children, three of whom are unemployed, Mwrebi says she works, not to buy anything vaguely fancy, but for transport, food and electricity.

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“When people ask me why I don’t save, I say ‘with what?’ I can’t cut any more corners.”

The high petrol price has hit home, and Mwrebi knows another hit will come when taxi and bus fares go up.

“Everything has gone up. For instance, even paraffin to cook and to heat up the house is expensive. I can’t use electricity always for this - as it is, my electricity is already about R400 a month.

"Paraffin is now almost R20 per 750ml bottle and you need two bottles overnight. Cooking oil is R94 for 2L. Mielie meal, all food, has gone up. Even bread - a loaf of brown bread is R16.

“I work four piece jobs and transport takes about three hours a day to get to my work and back. Every year the bus service goes up in cost and so do the taxis.

"I live in a small house and can’t even afford bricks to extend my home. I live with my three unemployed adult children and one grandchild. The other two grandchildren live with their mother and my daughter, who is employed, does not live here.

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"Most of my money goes on transport (about R1 800 a month) and then food. I honestly don’t know how my family and I survive.

“During Covid hard lockdown, I began a small vegetable garden at my house growing spinach, onions, beetroot and pumpkin. This helped me put food on my table during that time.

“I can’t remember the last time when we ate red meat in this house. I buy my food in the shops near me. They used to be cheaper but not anymore. A couple I work for give me a big parcel of food weekly. I am so lucky to have that.

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“As difficult as it is for my family, I can see others suffering even more.

“We are lucky where we live in Khayelitsha as people care for each other. We help each other. If a neighbour is without, it won’t be for long because we will share.”

Mwrebi, who is directly affected by youth unemployment, says it is a serious problem. Her adult children are not the only ones in the area without work. “My children are not working yet they are talented. Rejection after rejection when they go look for jobs can break a person’s spirit.

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“Even if someone asks me how do I look after five people on my salary, I can’t even begin to say how. Yet somehow we make it work.

“Like tonight my son is making us home-made bread and we will have pilchards with it - even though one tin of pilchards is as high as R24. I will add onions and veg to make it stretch for us five.

“It’s a hard life and it’s getting harder and my heart breaks to see so many people suffer around me. Where I can though, I try to help.”

- Vivian Warby

IOL Business

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