Sunday, 20 July 2014

My Views - Sixty Seven Minutes

This post should have been posted on Friday, but thanks to our ISP I haven't been able to post anything until hopefully now. We have had intermittent coverage since Thursday afternoon and it was such a struggle to go online for work purposes that I was not going to bother to try go online to blog.

On Friday it was the Esteemed Mr Nelson Madela's Birthday, our former state President. Some years back an initiative was started in honour of Mr Mandela whereby individuals and businesses give 67 minutes back to the community. You can read more about the initiative over here.

Now make no mistake I respect all individuals who go out and do their 60 minutes for charity, I personally believe that everyday should be Mandela Day. I conjure up these images of little orphans lying in their cots 364 days of the year with no stimulation or kind faces and then on the 18 July they are pounced on by hundreds of friendly faces handing out food and sweets and toys - playing with them, giving them so much stimulation and attention.They go to sleep with big smiles on their faces and wake up the next morning to find themselves all alone with just their over worked caregivers trying to look after them. Rumbling bellies, no stimulation; no smiling faces wondering what they did to deserve this rejection.

Maybe it is not as harsh as my imagination makes it sound and there are many initiatives that are 365 days long and not 67 minutes or one day, but I can honestly and openly say that I have never done anything for 67 minutes. Yes, my reasoning may be a cop out, but it is my belief and reasoning and I firmly believe that charity begins at home - first and foremost.

What grates me the most is how Corporates', commonly known as big business in South Africa come up with these initiatives to give back to the needy at the expense of their own clients. The powers that be in big business, like banks and mobile service providers should step out of their ivory towers EVERYDAY and see the frustrations their bad service causes their clients and the domino effect their bad service has on the people who live below the poverty line.

Big Business, like banks; mobile service providers and Government are not covered by the CPA (Consumer Protection Act) and there is absolutely nothing the consumer can do about their bad service. So on Friday, whilst our ISP was "giving back" to the community, they were in fact taking away from that very same community. Intermittent internet and no internet coverage meant that weekly wage staff were only paid after 7pm at night as we struggled with no internet. Staff who live from Friday to Friday and need that money to get home, staff whose children are probably the very ones who are being fed at these "give back" to the community initiatives. Although I find it very difficult to understand how a concert can feed a starving child, but yes that is a corporate's view of poverty and suffering.

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I always wonder if the powers that be, who step out of their ivory towers on "give back to the community" days actually give a dam about the person who scrubs their toilets; packs their groceries; washes their cars; fills their tank with fuel. Those are the very people whose children you are feeding at your feed a child initiatives - some of those children are orphans, but some have parents who just don't earn enough to pay school fees and you might say "why do they have children"  well why can't they also experience the love of a child?

As frustrating as it is for me when I get to a traffic light and a minibus taxi has blocked the intersection to let a passenger on or off and I want to press hard on my hooter and scream expletives and hand signs. I stop and think - that person getting on or off the taxi may or may not have spent the day scrubbing floors and toilets; maybe it is the person who spent 9 hours on her feet selling shoes that cost more than her monthly wage in a store where sitting down would have ruined the image of the upper class store. It might even be the person who scrubbed your toilet or the person who washed your fancy car in the freezing cold, who just wants to get home after a ten hour shift and barely has the energy to walk another block to catch a taxi, that incidentally does not have a designated stop. As frustrating as it is for me to miss a traffic light to let a minibus taxi in front of me, I do it, because that taxi driver has 20 people who need to get to work on time, I have myself. However, saying that I will NOT let the driver of a fancy car or any private vehicle push in front of me.

We all hate taxi drivers, because of the few rogues in the industry, but we forget that they bring the majority of the workforce to work each day. Imagine rushing into your favourite coffee shop and not being able to buy your morning coffee, because all the staff never came to work because there are no taxis. We forget that taxi driver woke up at 3 am to start his day and has to fight through traffic all day; fight through the hatred just because he drives a minibus taxi. His child is probably the one you are feeding during your 67 minutes "giving back" initiative. Yes I hate the taxi drivers who kill and maim as much as I hate every other motorist who drives in a way that will kill and maim. However, I believe it is my duty to give the taxi drivers the respect they deserve as a public transport driver. I believe that by giving a taxi a gap in the traffic instead of just blocking him like everyone else does, he will hopefully, be less likely to shove his way in front of another car or drive into on coming traffic, because instead of some white middle aged woman refusing to give him a space in the traffic, she smiled and let him through.

Imagine if all motorists used their "67 minutes" to respect the rules of the road EVERYDAY, who gave the taxi drivers the respect that public transport drivers are given in other countries, there would be less starving children who need to be fed on the 18 July. I certainly do not live in lala land and I know that there are plenty of bad taxi drivers out there, just yesterday we experienced it when we left Northgate shopping centre. Two taxis had blocked the road, one almost rammed into the other because I am assuming the one was accusing the other of stealing his passengers and the poor passengers were petrified as they were being screamed at to get into the other taxi. You could see he was a young upstart and sadly his kind do aggravate an industry that is already hated. Nevertheless, there are plenty drivers who if shown some respect and kindness would like to just get through the day as safely as the next person. Earn a minimum wage and go home and see his child that was no doubt fed at school by your 67 minute giving back initiative.

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We have a second business that we manage since March this year, that barely breaks even. It is a business run on unskilled labour so it is minimum wage. It must be so difficult to live on minimum wage and although we pay our staff more than minimum wage, if we pay them anymore we will be running at a complete loss and they would not have work. Although our prices are not regulated, if we increased them we would be way above market related prices and we would have no customers and therefore no business and the staff would have no jobs. Mark and I should not have a business like this, because we get too involved in the lives of our staff and we feel guilty that they live on minimum wage. The result is we pay them more than we should, on weekends we will buy a big bucket of KFC or a few pizzas and a couple of 2l cokes, so they can have something nice for lunch, instead of dry bread or pap (maize meal). Mark said on Father's Day when we were out to lunch both quietly feeling bad that our staff are working and we are out eating that they have days off during the week, when we are working so we shouldn't really feel guilty, because they also only work 5 days a week.

So do I feel guilty for not being involved in the 67 minute initiative, not at all. I have enough staff members to care about everyday. Staff that I buy soup for on very cold days; staff that we buy lunch for; staff that we give extra to everyday. Those are my 67 minutes, taking the time to find out who is behind the children fed on 67 minute feeding initiative days. Imagine if Madiba only did good on one day of the year.

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It is our prerogative whether we take part in the initiative or not and either way I hope you had a good day.


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