• September 22nd, 2020

Ten-year desperate job hunt… Elifas and others beg for work

WINDHOEK – For over ten years a resident of Havana informal settlement has been going from home to sit around some traffic lights in a leafy area of Windhoek hoping to be picked up for a job, but in vain.
Many other men in search of work can be seen along David Hosea Meroro Road where they congregate at traffic intersections in the capital.  

At the beginning of his job hunting, 40-year-old Mathias Elifas said, one could land a temporary job for a month or two but now it was no longer the case.
In fact, Elifas said, he has been coming to the traffic junction for 13 years now. 

When he does strike it lucky with some piece-meal work, he uses his meagre earnings to make ends meet.
With the upcoming general election, Elifas wants to see more jobs created.
“We are told to vote for change but we don’t see that change. I want real work so that I don’t sit on the street and hustle,” he told New Era.

When the economy thrived the father of four used to alternate looking for work at construction sites as he is a skilled bricklayer, painter and is adept at plastering walls as well.
But that was short-lived.

“Now a week can go by without being offered anything. It is sheer luck when someone offers you a job,” he said in the company of other men basking in the sun at the junction of Goshawk and David Hosea Meroro roads. 

He said most of the men get just a day job for as little as N$100.
He uses his earnings to buy N$30 units of water and pay the municipality N$80 for his erf. 
“Then I need food and clothing. But sometimes I prioritise my needs. Some things I don’t buy at all because the money is not enough,” said Elifas, adding that he sometimes depends on his broader family to support his children, as he can’t do it on his own.

Asked why they return to the same spot if jobs are hard to come by, Elifas responded: “… I cannot sit at home all day. And I don’t want to go steal and bring more problems upon myself, that is why I keep on returning here.”

The men arrive before 08h00 and leave at whatever time they wish.
Elifas wakes up around 05h30 and foots to Hochland Park. 
He said if he had to use a taxi everyday, he would be left with nothing. 
Asked if he has eaten since morning or came with food, he replies in the negative.  “I only go eat at night. I cannot come with food here, it won’t be enough for my household.” 

Just a short drive from where Elifas sits, a group of men stand up to run towards the reporter as she parks the car. 

They think it’s a job offer but after the reporter introduces herself, they agree to speak about their plight. 
They are about 10 who come from Havana, Goreangab and Ombwa ya lyata Otina informal settlements. 
Their story is similar to that of Elifas; they too can sit a week without landing a job.   With little education they say they have no choice but to sit at traffic intersections because back at the settlement they are scared to turn to alcohol and stealing. 

Speaking in unison the men say they survive from little handouts such as the few coins and food they get from motorists.

Meanwhile, labour researcher Herbert Jauch said the unemployment problem has been known for a long time but nothing has effectively been done to address it.  

Jauch said he fully understand that Elifas is about to lose hope and give up because the country has two national employment policies but which have not seen the kind of intervention that is required to make a difference. 

“If you look at unemployment statistics now, it is worse than it was before and affects young people very severely. When a young generation has no hope of finding decent work to make a decent standard of living, then the country is in crisis.” 

Jauch added that this should not just be an election topic discussed now but whoever wins the elections has to address unemployment seriously. 

“We must start looking at the kind of economic system we have and I don’t think the economic system we have will find the solution. It is time to rethink the system as a whole,” said Jauch.

Selma Ikela
2019-11-01 07:57:02 | 10 months ago

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