Begging on the streets lands Phathu Ngwana a corporate job

With a high unemployment rate, most South African youths are learning how to turn the less-than-ideal situation to their advantage.

This is exemplified by Phathu Ngwana, who braved the bitterly cold mornings in Johannesburg to stand at the traffic lights looking for her potential employer.

Ngwana, 27, from the village of Madombizha in Limpopo, finished her bachelor’s degree in Life Sciences majoring in biochemistry and microbiology in 2018; however, she struggled to find work for years.

In 2022, things took a turn when she decided to leave Limpopo for Johannesburg in pursuit of a better life.

Applying online was not working

“When I arrived in Johannesburg, I lived in Tembisa with my partner. I decided to go to the streets with a board to market myself because I saw that applying online was not working.

“It was during the winter, extremely cold, but I stood there with my board and my smile. I allowed people to take pictures, and some would give me a thumbs up. I was looking for any job,” said the emotional Ngwana.

She said her family situation and not wanting to disappoint herself were what pushed her.

“I was a focused student at school because I saw how we struggled to get the simplest things at home. I told myself that I wanted to be the one who rescues my family from poverty, but that period of unemployment felt more than humiliating,” she said.

Ngwana told Sunday World that young people in her village are unemployed, and being a part of the unemployment statistics depressed her.

“I cannot tell you how many times I applied for jobs I was qualified for, and I did not get them,” she explained.

“I then lowered my standards for internships and learnerships and asked spaza shop owners to hire me, but no one was prepared to give me a chance.

“I would receive rejection e-mails almost weekly, which had a negative impact on my mental and emotional health. My reality was that I was a part of a statistic.”

Good Samaritan

One morning, a man who was driving to work stopped at the Witkoppen and Rivonia Road traffic lights where Ngwana stood daily and took her cellphone numbers.

“He then sent me a text asking for my CV. I was booked for an interview, and I was hired.

“Transitioning from Limpopo as a girl who has been struggling to find employment in Gauteng to being told that I was accepted in the end user service, an IT learnership, was so big for me.

“Five months later, I received a letter of employment as an IT systems operator at Investec,” she added.

According to Ngwana, being permanently employed meant stability, security and the ability to provide for her family financially.

I provide for my family

“I had to leave my village because there was nothing for me there. I am now living, not surviving; I provide for my family of nine.

“To anyone who is unemployed now, I know it is not easy, but do not wait on people; do not live on what people say or think because they will not contribute to providing for your needs.”

Mduduzi Mthanti, an IT operations manager at Investec who saw Ngwana at the traffic lights, said he is always looking for ways to improve people’s lives.

“Thank heavens, the robot turned red, allowing me to stop and see her. What distinguished her was the board she carried.”

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