Pretoria - In a country where youth employment is high and the government does not have enough money to fix and maintain all the roads, some young people in the townships have looked at potholes as means to earn a living.
While motorists see potholes as a headache because of the damage they inflict on their cars, to these young people, the potholes are what waste is to a recycler.
They now live in most townships in Tshwane and earn their living from donations they receive from motorists and residents.
Mothosi Nkosi, 33, Tshiemo Matjila, 36, Thapelo Ntjaro, 25 and siblings Sipho, 29 and Kabelo, 30, Masango said their struggle to find formal employment pushed them into the streets with nothing but spades and buckets they needed to fill potholes.
They do not know each other, but because there are too many roads with potholes that need to be filled, one thing that is common is the respect for one another’s territory.
They make between R200 and R350 a day after sharing their earnings, which they generate from working in teams of two. However, to make this kind of money they ignore small streets in favour of the busier roads that experience high traffic volumes in peak hours.
Although this is not enough money, they are able to provide for themselves and their families even though it is a hand-to-mouth kind of work. They say if you are sick, you do not eat.
They say the biggest misconception is that people think there is not much work to do when filling potholes but those people do not know that they have to start their work afresh almost every morning. This is because they do not use road maintainable material like asphalt, which means the soil or sand they put in the holes is washed away by rain and cars at night.
Sipho and Kabelo Masango are siblings who live in Morula View and work on Lucas Mangope Road and target motorists who visit Legae Mediclinic, Morula View Shopping Centre and residents.
Sipho said: “Both our parents are unemployed. This money goes towards helping the family. We are the only children and we all do odd jobs at home. This is how we survive.”
Nkosi, popularly known as DMX in Hebron, works on Molefe Makinta Highway. He now lives in Odi with his two children, but originally comes from Lethlabile near Brits in North West. He has two young children with his girlfriend.
He said: “I have been doing this work for nearly five months now. I used to work outside a warehouse, lifting material for customers and helping some delivery drivers load material in their bakkies.
“Now I am here and I enjoy it because I am my own boss and motorists are grateful and help me out. I would still love to have a permanent formal job but for now, this is decent.”
His partner, Matjila, started working on the spot last year in November after doing odd jobs in Hebron and Ga-Rankuwa to support his two children.
“I am actually a child from this place. I did not expect to end up here. I used to cross this road as a pupil going to Lerato Primary School and now I work on it because there are no jobs in this country. I went to Pelotona Middle School in Mabopane. Life is hard so this work makes it easy so that desperation does not drive us to crime.”
Ntjaro said he did not have a permanent station because sometimes municipal workers fixed his roads, like they did in Klipgat Road and other busy intersections in the area.
“I will not lie, people are very good to us when we do this work. They not only give us their change but they also give us food drives. Some people know us, especially taxi drivers. They see how we burn in this heat or freeze in the cold all day. They become sympathetic.”
The group said they were not afraid of running out of work because the government was losing the battle against potholes, making their service important.