Men threaten female job-seekers

Female job seekers are seen patiently waiting for potential employers at the Amalinda Main Road and Brookmead Terrace junction in East London. Photo by Mandla Mnyakama

Women job-seekers have asked for government protection from sex pests.

A large group of unemployed women who queue by the roadside for job opportunities in East London complain that they are fed-up of being harassed by men who offer them money in exchange for sex.

Men of all races and nationalities, they say, frequently turn up at the location on the outskirts of Amalinda suburb to ask them for sexual favours.

Everyday poverty stricken women from Amalinda, Braelyn, Duncan Village and Scenery Park line up on the busy Amalinda Main Road and Brookmead Terrace Junction with the hope a potential employer will pick them up for a casual domestic job.

These desperate women say the prospective employers can be either men or women, sometimes business owners, who pick them up in private vehicles to hire them as casual workers for house cleaning, baby care and laundry and cooking.

Such stints for some of these women have been month-long domestic assistant jobs. Sexual harassment by male employers during sleep-in jobs, they say, is common.

Vuyelwa Mahlathi, 47-years-old from Braelyn, said she was horrified after a man in his 30s who had hired her for house cleaning towards the end of July offered her between R250 and R400 if she could provide him with sexual favours.  

“I was well prepared for the job he discussed at first as he drove me away in his car. It was after he explained his depression problem and the separation from the wife, when I mistrusted him.”

As his separation turned into his whine that he had not had sex in a long time and proposed cash for sex, Mahlathi demanded to be dropped off. She elaborated that the man appeared stunned by her reaction and provided R12 taxi fare for her to travel back to the road junction.

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Tired of being taken advantage of by sex-craving men, two weeks ago, the mostly single-parent mothers chased away four foreign nationals who approached them in two vehicles making loud propositions for sex.

Female job seekers sleeping on the roadside at the Brookmead Terrace and Amalinda Main Road Junction in East London as they wait for casual domestic jobs from chance employers. Photo by Mandla Mnyakama 

50-year-old Fundiswa Sebe also survived a threat of sexual violence two years ago when an elderly white man from the seaside suburb of Gonubie picked her up around mid-morning after negotiating a R200 fee for a house cleaning job. “It became very strange that the chuckling guy begged me to please him with sex for some cash. We got into his home, arguing that his wife was away for job purposes.

“I firmly refused and demanded to leave afterwards, and then I noticed him glancing at me frighteningly. He suddenly gave me R20 taxi fare and drove me to a local taxi rank.

“I fear that the worst things might occur here in future. These people identify us as vulnerable and also misunderstand us for sex workers,” said the mother-of-three from Duncan Village.

Severe labour exploitation, a failure by the employers to conform to initial fee agreements and the firing of the hired casual workers on the job without payment by cruel employers were emphasised as common problems.

Even after a month-long, sleep-in domestic job, some employers have dodged paying the agreed wages. Others pass silly remarks at them in front of their children. 

These job-seekers begged the government to guarantee their safety by establishing a satellite office at the location to record the particulars and the vehicle registration numbers of would-be employers. They feel that looking for work this way for men is common in most cities and towns but men do not face the same harassment and dangers.

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Male job-seekers do not face the same harassment and danger as their women counterparts. Archive photo by Sharon McKinnon

Pinky Mashiane, president of United Domestic Workers of South Africa, urged communities to stand together and fight against the anti-social conduct women job-seekers experience.

“I am very angered and disgusted by these terrible deeds that some cruel fortunate and evil people and perverts are doing to the less fortunate, unprivileged and poverty stricken women.

“If communities can stand against this, the culprits could stop it. It takes a community to fight any violations of human dignity and rights,”said the Pretoria-based Mashiane, who is affectionately known as Mama Fighter.

She lengthily specified the support she owes to the job-seekers. “I wish I could organise a march against this. We could march even if we are 10 or 20 people and picket in front of two or more houses of these lawbreakers and perverts, to expose them in their own communities. I have done that in Pretoria.”

Ziphozethu Josefu, the Eastern Cape’s Employment and Labour Department spokesperson, said they cannot assist job seekers on issues of sexual harassment and that such cases should be reported to the police.

Jackie Orsmond from Masithethe Rape Counselling Services in East London said that it should be everyone’s responsibility to keep women safe in South Africa.

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