The driver’s cabin of Busiswa Mkhomdo’s tipper truck is her happy place. Alone with her thoughts, listening to jazz or gospel, she drives the streets of George picking up refuse wherever she is needed.
The feisty 40-year-old mom from Lawaaikamp was the first female truck driver appointed in her department in 2016 – and not without some snarky comments from the men who had been ruling the labour-intensive roost at the municipality for almost ever. “The men would shout at me that I am taking their jobs and I would just shout back they should get their code 10 driver’s licenses and get in line.”
Busiswa was a street cleaner for the municipality for 11 years when a supervisor encouraged her to pursue a code 10 driver’s license. “It wasn’t easy, and I had to pay for lessons and licence myself, but I realised this was my opportunity to better my life. My husband is retired and my boys, Kamvalethu, 16, and Siyamthanda, seven, are still at school – I had to make this work.”
The commitment paid off and Busiswa inspires her family and community every day. “My husband and kids are proud of me, although they are concerned when I come home tired after a long shift.
“I love my job and I have my ‘sisters’, Annaline April and Mirriam Zimemo, the other two women driving refuse trucks. We talk about the frustrations that come from being the only woman working with a team of men, and that we are generally in more senior positions than our male team members.
“There are practical frustrations such as finding a parking space for a huge truck near a women’s bathroom – and then everybody knows you are going to the loo – while men can generally make a plan wherever they are.
“Other things are more about men’s perceptions about how we got the ‘men’s’ jobs: that we were lucky rather than deserving because the Employment Equity Act opened the door for us. We don’t care what they think. We are here and we are proud to provide for our families.”
- Words and photographs by ATHANE SCHOLTZLast published 06 August 2018