Ipelegeng workers decry hazardous conditions.
The young and old at ground zero of government’s short term support and relief programme, Ipelegeng, swing slashes and clear rubble for a living daily, conscious of the dangers that come with their meagre wages.
Sometimes bones get broken. Sometimes they don’t, but unhealthy conditions such as back ache, prolonged menstruation and general body pains and injuries are a daily occurrence in most streets and public roads as the workers try to make ends meet.
Motivated by a monthly P540.00 stipend, the workers risk their health without any protective wear, maintaining drift fences, desilting storm water drains, clearing bushes and other maintenance work.
Goitsemodimo Kgosiesele (41) of Goo-Ratshosa ward in Molepolole is among many unskilled workers who have been there and seen it all.
She has been lucky enough to have had her contract renewed every year since 2010, affording herself a daily meal and some toiletry for her daughter who is doing Form 4 at a boarding school.
But she has not been so lucky escaping the hazardous conditions that come with the job.
Kgosiesele recalls being hit by a stone on the head one morning when, together with her colleagues, they were loading a tipper truck in Molepolole.
There was no mention of any compensation after the accident. All she got was a few stitches at the hospital and a two week’s sick leave.
Her health since then, she says, has continued to deteriorate with an intensifying headache and weakening eyesight.
“I see darkness whenever I move or bend. An x-ray examination was conducted at a government hospital but nothing was detected. I seem to get weaker everyday and I cannot even carry anything on my head. I was advised to seek a second opinion from a private doctor, but from my monthly earnings, I can’t even afford the consultation fee,” she says reaching for her head and her eyes narrowing in pain.
Another frustrated worker, a 53-year old woman from Boswelakoko ward in Molepolole is too embarrassed to reveal her identity.
For the past two months she has spent most of her money on sanitary pads due to an unusually prolonged period.
“It’s been two years now but the bleeding won’t stop. I’ve taken different medication from the hospital but nothing changes. The sad thing is that instead of addressing our concerns, our supervisors tell us we’re free to leave if we can’t handle the job. But with the daily need to put bread on the table we don’t have much of a choice but to keep working,” she says.
Senior Assistant Council Secretary, Gofaone Kgabanyane, is aware of the workers’ plight but although he does not have any specific examples to point to, he insists they do compensate for injuries.
He says they even take employees to hospital for medical assistance.
“We normally have the budget for payment, and the labour office is the one which makes follow up in compensation. Ipelegeng is just manual work like cutting grass, building and others,” he says.
When asked about the heavy duties of loading stones on tipper trucks, he highlighted that he was aware that about 80 to 90% are female employees and that it was upon them to take the sizes of stones that they can lift up.
He added that such incidents are rare.
Kgabanyane says Ipelegeng employees are not provided with protective clothing as they work on short-term contracts.