The back of Loyanda August’s work bakkie is probably the best indicator that installing and fixing traffic lights is much more intricate than fiddling with wires and replacing light bulbs.
In addition to traffic signs, ladders, wires, tools and gadgets, you will also find hardcore pickets and spades – because, if it calls for it, she digs holes, replants poles and does whatever in the past may have been considered male territory.
Loyanda, 33, is a special worksman: traffic lights, which means she has expert training and experience to deal with all aspects of installing and fixing traffic lights. This includes specialist electronic programming, electrics, mechanics, hard labour and sometimes just plain old common sense. As traffic lights are part of road systems, she also works closely with civil engineering contractors building and upgrading roads in the city.
“I am very proud of the fact that complaints in my division are usually fixed the same day, mostly within minutes or hours, unless a part needs to be acquired or something more complicated is required. When I travel to other municipalities I often see traffic lights that have been off for weeks or months – it reminds me that, even with all the things that can go wrong, we are doing a very good job in our municipality.”
Loyanda studied at the Institute of Business Management after matric, started as a casual worker at the municipality straight after, and landed a permanent appointment as electrical assistant in 2005. When opportunity for an electrical learnership became available she signed up. “I am very proud to have come this far, but want to advance myself more – the next step for me is becoming a technician.
“When people see it is a woman up the ladder fixing a traffic light, there is almost always a response. People driving by hoot and wave. Some men get a bit cheeky and shout stuff out the window but generally it is all in good spirit. Passers-by stop and look, often asking how a woman got such a job. They are even more amused when they realise we are an all-woman team (my assistant, Noloyiso Baleni, is also a woman) and there are no men in sight to do the ‘hard’ work. When we tell them we do our own ‘dirty work’, they are very impressed.
“We are a new generation where jobs are not necessarily meant to be for a woman or a man. We can learn from each other. Men have been doing these jobs forever, their experience can help us. I am willing to learn, work hard and help where I can.
“Any work has its challenges. In this one, for instance, you can’t be afraid of heights,” she laughs. “You must stand your man if you want to do a man’s job, but if you do your work well, people realise you are an asset, not a burden.”
When the single mom goes home to Pacaltsdorp with her five-year-old son Amin, she leaves work behind and do others things she loves – like cooking. “Everything should not be about work, and building an independent, positive life on your own terms is important. I want to tell all people: set yourself goals and have a motto for your life. Don’t get stuck in the present: look beyond today and work towards bettering yourself always. It can be done.”
Story and picture by ATHANE SCHOLTZLast published 03 August 2018