FRANCISTOWN: It is Thursday morning and already the city’s run-away temperatures are forcing jobseekers at the Francistown labour offices in the industrial site to crawl under the trees.
But just as they seek heat refuge under the trees, they emerge like a colony of bees when a vehicle enters the labour offices yard. Mainly youthful jobseekers crowd around it in search of what they call mowelo in the street lingo. Mowelo means any menial job that can be offered on the day as long as it can pay, normally as little as P60 per day.
Uninitiated, the Mmegi crew is lost as the young men and women who frequent the labour offices shout the word that has become key and their only hope as they daily search for elusive jobs.
“We are suffering,” declares Onalenna Gaeboloke clad in fading green overalls inscribed SPTC, an acronym that stands for Selebi-Phikwe Town Council. He is wearing a sun-hat to protect himself from the merciless scotching heat that has been a worry lately. Everyday, Gaeboloke commutes from Borolong village, 20 kilometres west of Francistown. He is an unemployed father of a six- months-old toddler. Good Samaritans give him a ride everyday because he cannot afford the daily P5.60 transport fare daily.
Gaeboloke (35), was retrenched in 2015 by Aveng Moolmans where he was employed as a dump-truck operator. Everyday, he comes to the labour offices wielding a khakhi envelope containing his certificates and testimonials and it has been 12 months surviving on menial jobs.
Another man, clad in green overall and a Zebras T-shirt lost his job recently when the Tati Nickel Mining Company (TNMC) closed shop with its parent company, BCL mine. He is reluctant to be identified for fear of reprisals, despite already feeling the heat of the landlord who is breathing heavily on his neck because of his inability to pay rent at his Maipaafela house. He has joined the many Batswana who are jobless and everyday he has become a regular at the labour offices because on a good day he can get a job that can help him bring food to his table no matter how little it could be.
“On a good day, one can get a three-day job that normally nets about P180, but the problem is that both the private sector, government or parastatal, delay with the payments,” says the former plant cleaner at TNMC’s Phoenix mine, who acknowledges having been caught unawares by the turn of events. Mango Nsungwa hails from the North East District and has been a regular at the labour offices where he said they are getting ‘peanuts’ so that at least life can go on.
He lost his job in February at Botash where he was working for a company called Six-Plus-One, which was contracted to the salt and soda ash mine.
Nsungwa is a dump-truck operator who has been jobless since February. In addition to the hardships of rentals and caring for his family, when he was in fulltime employment, he took out loans. Now he is struggling to repay them. The dreadlocked man says there is a tendency of some people who give them jobs but abuse them when it comes to paying. “We are not paid immediately after completing our assignments. Some choose to pay us after three weeks knowing that we are helpless,” Nsungwa said.
Some of the menial jobs that are offered include offloading medications at the Nyangabgwe Referral Hospital, cutting vegetation in town and other errands around offices.
“Banks call us monthly and it’s December and when people jubilate, we will be moaning with nothing to enjoy the festive season,” says Nsungwa, worried that after his job loss friends have also deserted him.
Some ex-employees of BCL, TNMC, Aveng Moolmans, Boseto and Mowana mines are some of the regular jobseekers who are competing for the limited jobs with the many graduates who roam the streets.
The Francistown labour office is the meeting point of people from all walks of life. The story related
by Samuel Mogotsi who completed his Form Five from Shoshong Senior Secondary School three years ago is heart-rending. The young man has been frequenting the labour offices without success as an unskilled person. “I have been trying my luck without any success. The job market has nothing to offer for people like myself,” a despairing Mogotsi moans.
With skilled people in many areas like mining now pounding the streets, Mogotsi fears that they will be outwitted in their endeavours to get jobs.
“What is wrong with our country now that it seems every sector is shedding jobs?” Mogotsi asks rhetorically, explaining that the longest he had worked continuously was only for six months and the rest ranged from one day to three weeks.