DANIEL Mzimkulu Matiwane earns about R60 a day, or R1 400 a month. And no, he’s not a farmworker. He’s permanently employed as a grasscutter operator with a landscaping company in Epping Industria, where he cuts grass, flowers and trees every working day from 7am to 4.30pm. The 44-year-old Langa resident’s salary slips show that he received R1 285 in March, R1 443 in April and R1 501 in May.

Because of his low salary, he qualified for a home that’s fully subsidised by the government.  After living in a shack in the Joe Slovo informal settlement in Langa for 15 years since 1997, he finally moved into his new two-bedroom home, complete with running water and electricity, on October 2. He is one of hundreds of former squatters who have been granted homes in the N2 Gateway housing development in Langa, which is replacing the shacks in the area. Matiwane loves his new home – the only downside is that he entered it for the first time on crutches after being injured while helping to dismantle his shack.

His biggest problem now is that he’s not getting paid sick leave while off work. “My boss said I didn’t get injured at work, so he won’t pay. He also said if I don’t want my job, I must leave. I’m afraid I will lose my job,” Matiwane said. Last week he applied for unemployment fund money and for sick pay at the labour department offices in Athlone, to tide him over until he can work again. Matiwane also paints name and number signs to mark the front walls of his fellow residents’ new homes – for which he is paid R20 per sign – so that he, his unemployed girlfriend Nokuzola Thaba and their eight-month-old son Bulela can eat and pay electricity.

Matiwane said he bought food for himself and his family once a month – it costs R400 for a hamper containing mealie meal, samp, flower, sugar, rice, cooking oil, salt, beef stock, cabbage, carrots, onions, tomatoes, bananas and apples.

He’s missing out on Christmas festivities with his family in the Eastern Cape for the seventh consecutive year because he can’t afford the R900 taxi fare – R450 to Butterworth and R450 for the return trip.
“The one thing that I’m really happy about is my new home. It’s so much better and more spacious than the shack. I have everything here, including a kitchen, a bathroom and hot water. There’s even space here for my family to visit me from the Transkei,” he said.
He has high hopes for a better job, and is undergoing training to become a security guard.

Cape Argus, 8 December 2012