University turns humiliation into success

30 June 2014

The Ministry for Women in the Presidency has called on South Africans to be inspired by the story of five cleaning workers from the University of the Free State who have turned their humiliation into success.

In 2009, Emma Koko, Rebecca Adams, David Malete, Naomi Phororo and Mittah Ntsaleng were subjected to a racist “initiation” ritual in which they were forced to eat urine-soaked food. The incident shocked the country as it exposed the levels of racism that were prevalent at the university.

Since then, however, not only has the university turned its reputation around, but the five former employees are now the owners of a cleaning company and have been awarded a four-year contract by the university.

Speaking at the launch of the company, Mamello Trading, at an event at the university’s Bloemfontein campus on 19 June, vice-rector of external relations Choice Makhetha said Mamello Trading had been awarded a four-year contract to clean the university’s southern campus.

Kenosi Machepa, spokesperson for the Ministry for Women, said on the weekend: “The university did not just give the cleaners a contract. They invested in their capacity development and made sure they were mentored all the way, and even gave them an opportunity to prove themselves. This is sure to have a ripple effect on their families and the communities they live in.”

Machepa called for more institutions in the public and private sectors to introduce programmes to help women play a more active role in the economy.

Minister for Women in the Presidency Susan Shabangu, speaking to journalists in Cape Town following President Jacob Zuma’s State of the Nation address two weeks ago, said women should be prepared to take a central role as South Africa prepared to implement radical socio-economic transformation policies over the next five years.

Shabangu said her reconfigured department would form partnerships with other government departments and agencies, as well as the private sector and civil society, to accelerate women’s access to productive resources.

“The central message as we move South African women forward is – nothing about women without women. We need to move women from the status of being victims to victors by ensuring that they are not left behind.”

SAnews.gov.za and SAinfo reporter