Case Studies

The following is a selection of case studies of children coerced into child labour.

Case Study 1

Denise Mwili is a 15 year old girl from Kuruman, Kimberley in the North West Province.

Her mother is an unemployed widow with three children to care for; the family daily survival is dependent on the grandmother’s old age pension. Denise left school because the family could not afford the school fees, uniform and stationery. She decided to come and work in Cape Town to help support the family.

When the domestic recruitment agent came to their town looking for girls to come and work in Cape Town, Denise thought that this is a wonderful opportunity given the fact that the taxi was “free”. The agent promised her that she would be earning R900 per month. Her mother consented to her coming to Cape Town based on the reassurance from the agent.

When she arrived in Cape Town she was dropped off at the agent’s house and learned that the trip to Cape Town was in fact R350. The taxi’s money would be paid for by the employer and the employer would claim this money back from her first salary. The living conditions at the agent were terrible and the agent used abusive language. When prospective employers came to the agency they would stand in a parade for selection.

Denise was selected by a bakery owner. She remembers signing a piece of paper but didn’t know what it was. A copy was kept by the agent and the employer was given the other.

The employer explained to Denise that she would receive R500 a month.  For this money she was required to clean the employer’s house and that of his mother. After that she was fetched to work in the bakery. She worked a 15 hour day, seven days a week. Meals were eaten while she continued working and she was not given any time off. Denise slept in the back room of the bakery, which was very dirty and infested with rats. The employer and his family were very abusive towards her and she was not allowed to go out on her own.

After three weeks she ran away from the employer and sought help from the police. Her family was contacted and they scraped some money together for her trip home. Denise is currently back home facing the same circumstances as before but has decided to stay at home.


Case Study 2

Maureen Damons, 14 years old girl is from Koffiefontein.

On the 14th July 2005, Shamiela Ariefdien came to our house (by car) on the farm, looking for a domestic worker. She asked my mother if I could come and work for her and my mother agreed to me going to work for Shamiela in Cape Town. Shamiela told my mother that I would come home in February and that she would send money home monthly to my family. This was the first time I came to Cape Town to work as a domestic worker. I was forced to drop out of school because my parents could not afford the school fees. I was told by the principal that I could not attend school if my parents do not pay the fees.

When I arrived in Cape Town, I stayed at Shamiela’s cousin’s house until Tuesday the 19th July 2005. I then started to work for Shamiela. At the end of July, she paid me R200. My salary for August was R300. I was paid R250 at the end of September and R250 for the month of October 2005. My work entailed cleaning the house, doing the washing and ironing. I worked from a Monday to a Saturday from 8:00 until 19:00. Although I worked for two other women during the week, I would first clean Shamiela’s house before I leave.

My employment arrangement with the second employer was on an ad hoc basis. Sometimes I would work once or twice a week on occasion she would arrange with Shamiela that she would fetch me everyday from Monday to Saturday.  I would start working for her at 10:00 until 23:00. Before I went to work at her place, I would first clean Shamiela’s house. I heard from their conversation that the second employer would pay me R250 a month. The second employer paid me R100 for August, R160 for September and R250 for October. The third employer paid me R60 for three days work.

The employment arrangement with the first and second employer was arranged by Shamiela, who intern would inform me of where or for whom I would be working the next day. I was verbally abused by Shamiela. She shouted at me sometimes and used foul language to address me. She said that I am lazy and that I do not work properly.I slept in the sitting/dinning room on a mattress, which was stored in her son’s room along with my clothes.

On the 7th November, I told Shamiela that I wanted to go home because my father was in hospital. She was unsympathetic and through my clothes out by the door and said, I must leave. I do not know Cape Town and did not know where to go. I decided to leave and went to the Athlone police station. The police then took me to a shelter. I thought that they were going to take me home.


Case Study 3

Steven is a fifteen year old boy who lived with both his parents in Mosselbay.

He was standing on the local shop’s stoep when he was approached by Wanie on a Saturday. Wanie asked Steven to accompany him to Cape Town and promised he would return him the next day (Sunday). Steven agreed and left with Wanie with only the clothes on his back. He trusted Wanie because his sister lived in Mosselbay and she was known to him and Steven had seen Wanie in the area before.

On arrival in Cape Town Steven was instructed to sell flowers and he shared a sleeping quarters with four other flower sellers in the Wanie’s yard. There were only two beds in the room and the newcomers slept on the floor. When he asked Wanie to take him home, he refused and he didn’t want to give Steven money to find his own way home. Steven admitted that he was scared and that he didn’t know where he was in Cape Town or how to get home. Steven said that he was scared of Wanie because he had witnessed enough physical abuse to know that you don’t cross Wanie. He started working for Wanie and earned R300 every fortnight. This money he used to buy things and drugs, a habit he learned from the others in the yard.

It was never Steven’s intention to leave home as he was happy at home. Yet here he was stranded in a strange city with no money, no family and was dependant on Wanie for his survival. He started using drugs and was caught by the police in possession of dragga and a mandrax tablet. Steven was send to Bonnietown and later remanded into the custody of the Homestead. Steven was so traumatized that he seemed to have lost all concept of time and was unable to recall dates. Steven initially informed us that he has been in Cape Town for a couple of months when in fact it has been more than a year.