Joburg struggles to juggle street hustlers
Patrick Mngomezulu‚ 31‚ has seen his life flash before his eyes at least once while juggling oranges on the corner of Barry Hertzog and Empire roads in Johannesburg.
“I got hit by a car while doing my tricks in Fourways. I have scars on my head for this. But there are no jobs and this is the only way I can make a living‚” Mngomezulu said.
The street entrepreneur says he makes around R180 a day entertaining drivers stuck in traffic. It’s a meagre income but it beats staying at home doing nothing.
Mngomezulu is one of Joburg’s many intersection hustlers who make ends meet by entertaining or dancing at traffic intersections. Many others are more forceful – offering unsolicited window washing services.
According to the City of Joburg Mngomezulu is not allowed to ply his trade at any intersection‚ but there is no way to enforce existing by-laws to stop him and others.
TimesLIVE spoke to some street dancers who have capitalised on the City’s inaction. They make as much as R2‚500 a day from their moves.
According to Payscale‚ this is far higher than the average salary of a cashier‚ which is about R3‚505 a month.
The dance group operate along Bolton and Cradock Avenues in Rosebank and have their routine timed to the changing lights.
The four – Mlungisi Ncube‚ Lindelani Rampama‚ Sphiwe Mgedleni and Thabang Mokolokoxo - are all pupils from Alexandra.
“Since we started our dancing I am able to provide a lot for myself. I’ve been able to buy myself a smart phone and nice sneakers. I don’t need to trouble my parents with pocket money at school because I always have money. I tell my parents to save the money they want to use to buy me things‚” Ncube explained.
But this fortune is made in contravention of by-laws that prohibit loitering on the streets and standing in the middle of the road.
The Johannesburg Metro Police Department‚ which launched Operation Ke Mo Lao (It Is Law) in 2015 in a bid to clear the street intersections‚ says its efforts have proved fruitless.
“The biggest problem we have is that the instructions from national police are that there is nothing they can do; that crime is not classified as a serious crime‚” said spokesperson Edna Mamonyane.
“When our officers drop them at the police station‚ the police just let them go.”
It is difficult to even issue them with fines because most do not have addresses or any identification documents‚ she said.
These people become cross when you don’t pay and become aggressive. This morning‚ one of them actually told me f**k you because I did not want to pay.
Law enforcers said the presence of street dealers made it difficult to differentiate window washers or beggars from those committing crime on unsuspecting motorists.
One motorist‚ Thomas Mangatane‚ hoped to see all street dealers removed from the intersections.
“They are troublesome. Sometimes you are coming from a car wash and your car is clean and they just throw water at your windscreen and mess it up … Even the dancers cause problems. There is a risk they can be hit by a car‚” said Mangatane.
Mandla Mahlangu‚ 32‚ is a window washer at the intersection of Empire and Victoria roads and believes he is making an honest living.
“I respect people. I do not wash their windscreens if they refuse‚” he said.
He lost his job four years ago. He first tried collecting scrap but later turned to windscreen washing.
On a good day he makes about R90 but as TimesLIVE joined him on the job on Monday‚ he had not made even R10 by the afternoon.
Mahlangu said he was aware that some thugs did smash-and-grabs at intersections. His biggest fear was having such a crime pinned on him.
“I try my best to ensure nothing goes wrong in this intersection because the police know that I’m always here‚” he said.