Margaret Rose Claasen

Interview conducted in June 2018

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I am 24 years old and work at TCI Cape Town.

I’m an outgoing person. I like children a lot. I like to read and listen to music. Old school music is the best. Old music tells a story. It’s more than a story: it leaves a message to you as a person. Karen White is my favourite. I don’t like judgmental people. I love to eat and especially chocolate.

I was born in Valhalla Park, Cape Town.

I grew up in the Cape Flats. The house was fine. It was full of love, but difficult because there are so many gangs around you. Say for instance you were trying to take exams. Two gangs may be fighting and you couldn’t concentrate because of the shooting. It wasn’t very nice to grow up there, but you choose where to go in life. It was a struggle, but in the end, any situation is what you make out of it. We just pushed through the hard times.  

I was in Grade 2 when I moved in with my grandmother, Elizabeth, for personal reasons. My sister, Sonya, came too. My grandmother worked as house help but now she is a pensioner.

When I was 20, my dad passed away. I can’t even explain the sadness.

My mother, Magdalene, lives in Bonteheuwel. She makes money any way she can. She is self-employed and sells stuff like meat, for example. Today, I still live with my grandmother in Valhalla Park. My sister and her two boys live with us.

I finished school and took a gap year and ended up here for my first job. My ex-brother-in-law recommended the job to me.

I have been in the industry for three years. I started as a trainee, then a marker, and now as a machinist. I do tacking.

You need a few skills to be a good machinist.

You need to check for quality. You need to reach your target. You need to work well under pressure. I enjoy it, yes, sometimes, no. I don’t enjoy it when I get scolded by my supervisors and must do something over again. I must focus and check the quality so that this doesn’t happen.


At this job, I’ve learned that you must never downgrade yourself. You must always try your best.

After deductions, I make R900 a week. I save R100 a week through the company. I pay R400 to my grandmother for rent, electricity, and water every second week. My sister and I alternate who pays the rent. I spend R100 a week on transport. I spend the rest of the R500 on food and whatever else is needed. The money goes to help everyone in the whole house, not just me.

Here, when it’s your birthday, everyone makes you stand on the table as they sing to you. They make you dance. It’s a big deal and it’s nice. Everyone cares for each other.

I think you’re closer with people at work than your own blood relatives.

You spend so much time with people at work that they become your family. You tell each other everything. You laugh and joke. Sometimes you fight, but you always make up. In the end, we’re one. That’s where the Mandela shirts come in. He didn’t fight for one of us. He didn’t say, “I’m only fighting for you or for you.” He fought for us all to be one.

It has been an honor to work on the Mandela shirt. Only our company makes the shirt, which means our company is the best. It is nice to be a part of this t-shirt because it means so much.

I am fine where I am. My job puts bread on the table, but it is not my dream. In the next few years, I see myself as a teacher. God willing, I will start studying to be a teacher within the next year. I need to do my theory and practical. My mother has agreed to help me pay.

Teachers must be patient and listen attentively. They must always be there as a friend. I currently teach Sunday school and very much enjoy it. I love interaction with children. Small kids will listen to you. Adults never listen. My favorite thing is seeing their eyes light up when you help them. 

I was inspired to become a teacher by my grade 12 English literacy teacher named Felicity. She was just the best. There’s no words. She was just awesome. She always told us to never give up on ourselves and always dream big and never let anyone tell us anything different. I plan to one day tell my students the same.

It is so important to remember.


Interviewed and transcribed by Lisa Petersen, Lily Koning and Sheridan Wilbur in June 2018