Nolukanyo Noreen Gogel

Interview conducted in 2016

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Nolukanyo Noreen Gogela has been working in the industry since 1988.

She started as a cleaner in a CMT and moved up to become a machinist. She has worked at several different companies, and has been at Prestige since 2010.

She works as a machinist on Line 8 and specializes in making women’s pants, dresses, skirts and t-shirts.

Noreen was born in Alice in the Eastern Cape and moved to Gugulethu in Cape Town when she was 6 years old to live with her grandparents and complete school.

She takes home about R900 per week after deductions. This income is used to support 10 people in three different households.

In her house she supports herself, her boyfriend, her oldest son Siyanda, and her boyfriend’s two daughters (ages 11 and 18). Her boyfriend gets temporary and irregular jobs in a construction company. The jobs last a few months at a time. He also gets a child grant for each of his daughters which helps to pay for some of their schooling costs. Siyanda, her son, is 23 years old.  He finished grade 11 but failed matric and has been unable to find a job since he left school.

Noreen also sends R1500 every month to her mother-in-law for food for her two younger sons who live with their grandmother in Lady Frere in the Eastern Cape. Her mother-in-law gets an old age pension and also receives the child care grant for the 5 children she cares for (two from Noreen and three other grandchildren). 

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When she can afford to, Noreen sends money to her parents in Alice, also in the Eastern Cape. They each receive an old age pension. They also look after the young daughter of her boyfriend, for whom they receive a child grant.  

Noreen lives in her boyfriend‘s informal house in Makhaza in Khayelitsha. She has lived there since 2011.

Beforehand she rented a brick house in Site C, Khayelitsha, but had to move out because she was unable to afford the rent anymore. It cost her R1500 per month and her boyfriend helped her pay for the rent. But when he lost his job she had to move out.

Her boyfriend’s house has 5 rooms and is made from zinc and wood. He built it himself. 

There is no running water in her house.

Every evening she fills up two 25litre buckets with water from a communal tap about 5 minutes walk away. The one bucket is used to wash herself. The other is used for cooking. Her son helps her collect the water.  Sometimes the tap does not work. Then she must go to neighbours in formal houses and use their taps.

There is also no toilet in her house. She must use communal portable toilets which everyone in the settlement uses. She describes them as disgusting and full of disease and sickness. She is concerned about the health of herself and her community. Rubbish is left strewn around the settlement. Children play in it, and so do rats.

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Last year Noreen received electricity in her house for the first time.

Beforehand she cooked with a small gas stove. It cost her R180 per month to refill the gas. At night she needed to use candles which cost her about R200 per month and a paraffin light which cost R120 per month. 

Now she spends R200 a month on electricity. In other words she been able to save almost R300 every month on energy costs because of electrification.

She does not have a fridge at the moment and has been using space in her neighbours’ fridge. She pays R20 a week towards the cost of electricity. However next week she will be receiving a fridge she has bought with the help of an interest free loan from her company.

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Noreen shops at the Somalian spaza shop in the area. She says it is cheaper than formal big retailers like Shoprite.

Once a month she buys a hamper of mielie meel (10kg), rice (10kg), flour (10kg), sugar (10kg) and fish oil (2kg). It costs her R411.99. These items form the basis of her diet. It is starch rich.

Every week she supplements her groceries as needs be. She buys things like sausage, chicken, butter, oats, coffee, and basic toiletries. She considers milk, cheese, polony, eggs and fruit to be luxuries which she cannot often afford. 

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Sometimes Noreen does not have enough money to buy food to bring to work.

Her company was made aware that this is a common problem for many workers. Prestige therefore arranges that every day, Blue Ribbon bakery delivers 50 loaves of bread to the factory, paid for by the company. The shop stewards then take the bread and allocate it to the workers during tea time – about 4 slices each. The intention is to make sure that workers have at least some food at work.