Tuesday, September 25, 2007

2007. Post Apartheid SA - NZ, 2000-2001 SA Dispatch and WINZ Harassment

2001. Esslemonts in the red, Oaklands, Christchurch.

January 2001. Alleman's dispatch: "Economy doing well, and we make money. Regarding tertiary education bursaries for Jake - Government policy: only black youths get bursaries. Businesses must use 80%-20% quota - 80% blacks, forcing businesses to employ / train racially. Business decisions must be racial, like apartheid.

Cops are being 'blackified.' You struggle to get a crime solved. Traffic cops ask for bribes. Gangsterism is increasing. Drugs are out of control. Government corruption at all levels. Violent crime: Pep Stores in town robbed last week; car -jackings; burglaries; murders (over 70 in Ditlhake over Xmas); rapes are so common they aren't newsworthy anymore.

Latest job is 'car guards.' Pay a street-kid R2, and he guards your parked car while you shop. A tsotsi shot an East Londoner in his face. He played dead, while his home was robbed. (Tsotsis had already burrowed through his security wall in a previous robbery). His wife arrived and was shot at. Missed! Later, she took her husband to hospital, which wanted R3000 up-front before he was admitted.

Natal farmers can't get adult labourers, due to Aids deaths. Only young and elderly (non-Aids) labourers are available. Multitudes dying of Aids: 11 million infected in SA - about 20% of the adult population. Over 600 000 Aids orphans in Zimbabwe. Elderly white woman robbed and raped in her home. She got Aids and drinks herself to death. Addington Hospital: now an Aids hospital.

Remember in 1987 when Koffiefontein mine black employees refused to acknowledge mine clinics warning about Aids and the need for condoms? White Baas trying to stop us blacks having our 'Gifts from God,' our children. New undertaker businesses, bottom of Berea Road, Durban, are burying Aids corpses. On the road south of Beit Bridge, blacks sell concrete tombstones, with plastic wreaths for Aids victims.

There're squatters along the Garden Route from Plett to Knysna. And cows wander across the road. There's cholera and foot-and-mouth in Natal, malaria in the north, and anthrax in Schmidtsdrif. Municipalities now replace stolen manhole-covers on streets with concrete lumps. Did you know Chappies bubblegum wrappers are now PC?"

Before 11 September 2001, some Cantabrians and National politicians objected to Tampa rescued Afghani refugees (saved from an Australia-bound sinking ship) wanting Christchurch residence. The Labour government later allowed Afghanis into NZ. (Caroline Moorehead, Human Cargo, Random House, London, 2005).

Riccarton WINZ tried forcing me to clerk at a church-school ($10/hour x 26 weeks temp job, no holiday pay). My case-manager illegally expected 10 year old Luke to be a latchkey-kid while I clerked. A Christchurch councillor also tried forcing me to do that job, with Leah taking harassing phone calls for me, as I couldn't use the phone. The headmaster wouldn't tell me who my employer would be, as the school, WINZ and Christchurch City Council would all have contributed to my measly $10/hour.

I declined the job, as the walls of the school's photocopy room were black with toner, a health hazard, and my nearby "workstation," sans pc, was behind an office door.

Riccarton WINZ stopped our dole. I complained. WINZ resumed our dole, without explaining why WINZ had stopped our dole.

Riccarton WINZ then wanted me to do a Fuse "business training" course, for unemployed visual artists. I declined, as performing arts were my forte. The Fuse "trainer" lady just copied my CV, (which Riccarton WINZ already had), sent it back to Riccarton WINZ, recommending that I needed "training," whatever that meant. Riccarton WINZ then sent me to a Creation "trainer" to be interviewed. I arrived, twice, and wrote to the Creation "trainer," but the "trainer" was absent. As I was fucked around, I wondered if the "training" existed. In 2004, the Labour government stopped funding such wasteful "training."

WINZ based its dole payments on beneficiary labels. Examples: "Job Seeker," "Sickness Beneficiary," "Invalid." I was labelled Job Seeker. Over the years, by post and phone calls we'd regularly informed Income Support / WINZ of our low pay, and due to WINZ slow dole processing, WINZ belatedly informed us by post that WINZ had overpaid us small dole amounts, which WINZ subsequently reclaimed from our dole payments. Despite dole processing, not one WINZ employee acknowledged nor advised that Leah was actually our family Job Seeker, until Leah and I asked Riccarton WINZ to relabel Leah Job Seeker, as Leah was our family Breadwinner. To play the parts of Job Seeker and Partner, we had to attend another humiliating form-signing meeting at Riccarton WINZ.

Although Leah was running a successful small tutoring business (low pay compared to other professionals), and I was doing her book -keeping and tax returns, Riccarton WINZ insisted I attend a "Small Business" interview in the CBD. The "Small Business" organisation had no client parking and the manager who "interviewed" me almost fell asleep, as his eyes glazed over several times during his "interview." I wondered whether WINZ paid him for such dozy interviews? I never heard from him again.

Riccarton WINZ sent our file back to Sydenham WINZ. I wanted to believe WINZ had my tertiary education, professional expertise and interests at heart, but I was wrong. Example of Sydenham WINZ's standover and ambush tactics:

Job interview, Me to Gosling: "...Words! I should be doing writing and copy-editing work."

Gosling, with the dead weight of the biggest government department behind her, scrolling through her junk-job list: "Do envelope stuffing - ten dollars an hour!"

Me: "No thanks. Do you expect me to stuff envelopes for the rest of my life?"

Gosling called her Aussie supervisor who said, "You can't do that!"

Me: "Whose side are you on?" Aussie stopped, silent, shocked. Empathising with a beneficiary was new to him.

Male service-manager (who hadn't answered my query letters), and just happened to be strolling by: "Be quiet! You talk too loudly! You're a threat to my staff!...." I was humiliated in their noisy communal office - where keyboards tapped, interviewers jabbered and employees telephoned. What did they expect? They hadn't read my CV, nor matched my professional expertise with suitable work, despite having had months to do so.

Sydenham WINZ sent me to a female job-agent who asked, "Why don't you teach at a deaf school?... Why don't you teach ESOL?..."

Pig Dog: "Why don't you work with females?... Why don't you read my CV?... You're not the first person asking me those questions. As if being deaf, I crave working with deaf people."

I complained to Labour PM Clark about my immigrant money -matters, like my broken teeth. Her Labour minister wrote, "This government is determined to create a fair society where all New Zealanders have the means and capacity to lead dignified and productive lives. We know there have been growing levels of hardship in NZ, and we are absolutely committed to introducing economic and social policies to eliminate hardship." (Labour minister, NZ Letter January 2001. Also Christine Rankin, Light The Flame, Random House, Auckland, 2008).

The minister didn't answer my question: "Would you and your family honestly be able to live on the dole which NZ beneficiaries are expected to live on?"

Years later, the minister's Maori colleague said the Labour minister was "bullshitting" about Maori welfare. After the Maori minister said the Labour minister was "smarmy," PM Clark made the Maori minister apologise. Later the Labour minister became Education minister, then left politics to become Chancellor of a North Island university.

A state dental hospital extracted two of my teeth, put temp-fillings in my broken teeth, and put my name on a waiting list. I'm still waiting, years later. The fillings soon crumbled, and despite our answer -phone, we never heard from the hospital again. Waiting lists fobbed off patients, while hospital staff moaned about short-staff, or bad work conditions. What's the point of a welfare state, if it neglected to fix teeth, or do surgery? In comparison, the teeth I'd had repaired and capped in SA years before were still OK.

2000. Leah Esslemont's Mackintosh Brothers Al & Gee, Rocky Mountains, Denver, USA.

WINZ sent a 57 year old SA immigrant (BCom., analytical chemist) on a bus driver's course. He declined the bus driver's $10/hour job, but did part-time civil-defence work, then security work. After 8 year's residence, a Pom engineer and his teacher wife couldn't find full-time professional work. Like us, they endured the dole. After advertising my CV in The Press, Giz a Job column, I declined medical-journal and craft-journal casual job offers: low-pay.

Copyright Mark JS Esslemont.

See "The Press."

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