Mallishia Koopman

Interview conducted in 2013

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Born just a year before the historic formation of SACTWU in 1987, SACTWU’s Got Talent 2013 winner, Mallishia Koopman was born and bred in Cape Town. She was raised by her mother and her grandmother in Belhar. Although her father was not in the picture in terms of raising her, he is part of her life. She has a two year old son (Ludvech) whom she loves very much.

She started her schooling at Riebeek Street Primary School in Belhar and moved onto Perseverance Secondary School. When she was in Grade 11, her mother moved to Eerster River where she completed her matric. 

After completing matric, she went onto to study teaching at the Mowbray Teachers Training College but only stayed for the first term due to financial problems and had to drop out. Her mother then brought her to Als Clothing where she started working as a bagger in the cutting room. This is Mallishia’s sixth year at the company and now works as a sorter. She describes her work environment as “lekker” as half of the workers in the factory are young and under the age of thirty. Although this is her first job, she does not intend on staying at the company for much longer. She is currently saving up to go back to school and continue her teaching studies at the Kuils River FET College.

Mallishia lives in Belhar with her son and her 77 year old grandmother who receives the Old Age Grant. Her son attends a public crèche which she pays R400pm. She has one sister from her mothers’ side and three other siblings, two sisters and one brother from her father’s side. Her mother also used to work at Als Clothing but left and got another job at Peter Blond. Her mother, who is currently 45 years old, has worked in the clothing industry ever since Mallishia can remember.

Mallishia and her mother are the only family members who work in the industry. Her one sister recently got a job at KFC in the second half of 2013 and her father works for the City of Cape Town Municipality. Her other sister is unemployed and her brother recently dropped out of high school. Her baby sister from her mothers’ side is currently doing Grade Four.

She doesn’t have much of a social life, spends most of her time with her son and grandmother. Although she describes Belhar as a little rough, she feels relatively safe in her community.

Although they are not well off, they have always had access to basic services such as water, electricity, public healthcare and housing, which she attributes to the efforts of government. She has however had a very bad experience of public healthcare at the Tygerberg Hospital where her son was hospitalised for a month. She slept on a chair for the duration of that month as there was no sleeping area for mothers who have babies who are hospitalised. She says she was treated very badly by hospital staff and there weren’t any blankets for her son, she had to bring one from home.

She describes winning SACTWU’s Got Talent in 2013 as the highlight of her life. She lives for singing and says SACTWU’s Got Talent has allowed her to live her dream, even if it is just for a little while. She’s performed at a few public events since she won the competition and hopes that this will open doors for her as she ultimately wants to see herself in the music industry.

Apart from her love for music, Mallishia also loves fashion. She says working at the factory has taught her a lot about fashion and has also improved her fashion sense. She says although they make clothes that she cannot afford to buy for herself, she feels good when she walks past a Truworths shop and sees a garment she helped to make. Mallishia’s personal style is casual wear and likes to mix and match different pieces.

Travelling to work by train is a problem for Mallishia as the trains are always late and sometimes unsafe. She doesn’t prefer any other mode of transport because the train is the cheapest but she is aware that Metrorail has recently bought new trains and hopes this will make the trains safer and more reliable.  

Her biggest wish in life is for her son to get an education and go onto make a better life for himself.

Although she enjoys her work at the factory and is thankful for having a job, the money she earns is very little. She says she would not be able to take care of her son and her grandmother if her grandmother did not receive the Old Age Grant to help carry the household expenses.

Mallishia has overcome many challenges in her life. She was in an abusive relationship with the father of her son. She thanks the support of her mother and grandmother and the involvement of the police for getting her out of that relationship. She says they saved her life.

Mallishia enjoys all types of South African music and believes that the country has come a long way musically with South African artists getting international recognition regardless of her race. Mi Casa is her favourite band at the moment.

She sees crime as one of the things that has the potential of undoing a lot of the good work which has been done in the last 20 years. She says because of the high levels of crime, people are starting to forget the good work government has done in terms of education, housing and job opportunities that have been created for all South Africans regardless of their race. 

She says the fact that she has the freedom to walk wherever she wants, is the greatest freedom she currently enjoys in the new South Africa. She has a faint memory of when she was little and her mother telling her “don’t go there because we are not allowed to enter there because we are not white”. At the time, she did not understand why not but now appreciates that she has the freedom to come and go anywhere in the country.