Sebenzile Dlani (not his real name) has been looking for a job for more than 15 years, leaving home at 5am to stand at the side of the road in Gugulethu where he waits in the hope that someone will drive by looking for a labourer.
Most days the someone never comes.
“There are times when I feel that I am not man enough,” he says.
“As a man you are there to provide for the family. When you cannot, you feel bad.”
Like many of the men who wait with him on the corner of Lansdowne and Duinefontein roads, hunger is an ever-present companion.
They wait at the roadside without a decent meal in their bellies. However, a programme by the Thursday Manyano (or mother’s union) of Abednego Jafta Methodist Church of South Africa plans to ease their misery by ensuring that even if the men return home empty-handed their stomachs will full.
The women are collecting foods, such as rice, mielie meal, to make up food parcels for a programme they call “Roadside Men”.
The women now plan to drop off the food parcels on Thursdays along the roads where the men wait for work. The Manyano’s chairwoman, Mavis Wisani, said they could not run the project alone and will be working with other church members. “This will help ensure we avert a situation where people spend the day hungry. We have monitored and seen that most (of the men) have nothing, not only where they stand but back home. We know we cannot provide for their families, but we can give them hope.”
She added: “We formed this with the intention of uplifting each other and teaching one another what it means to be poor in society. We thought it would be a good exercise for us to reach out to these poor men from our communities and help where we can.
“We have collected foods and toothpaste and other things that will be of help to them.”
She challenged other organisations to copy the idea.
Another member of the group, Phuthunywa Gxavu, said it was disturbing to see old people, heads of the houses, standing along the road.
“Their story is touching. They are expected to put something on the table, but it does not always happen that way. This is where we come in, with the little that we have. But we will not only give them food but give them hope that one day they will be providers. As Christians, we should be doing these projects, we should be giving hope to the hopeless and vulnerable,” she said.