Spare a thought for sistas such as this one

She is petitie and no older than 35 but looks very tired and admits that she is clapped out..

She is petitie and no older than 35 but looks very tired and admits that she is clapped out..

The young woman is wearing black pants tucked into matching gumboots.

It is Christmas Eve.

She has an empty Coke bottle in each hand.

"May I please fill these bottles with water," she says. "We are thirsty."

I watch her as she disappears into my front garden and she does indeed look weary.

The sky-blue dust coat she is wearing does not hide the fact that she is pretty, but her job spoils the effect.

The woman is employed by a refuse removal company.

I must confess I do not savour the moment when I see her walk into my yard on the eve of the day that everyone around the globe celebrates with one purpose: peace and goodwill.

She could be a mother, a sister, someone's daughter or wife.

I wonder how many people make an effort to look closely at garbage collectors?

Traditionally the collectors are raucous men from rural areas, whom we call names and equate with the rubbish dumps.

We never anticipated that one day black women would be seen picking up dustbins and hanging precariously on the sides of the garbage removal truck.

Some even used to argue that the advent of democracy would ensure that our women were precluded from such shame - especially our black sisters.

Neither have I seen a white woman swing a pick to fast-track the mecca of football, Soccer City, to be ready for the 2010 spectacle.

But our women now wash public toilets and endure the stench of blocked sewerage systems.

What used to be odd jobs for boys who wanted to earn some quick pocket money in their school holidays have now become bread-and-butter issues for most of our women.

Imagine, you pass them every day when you go to work and hardly notice them anymore.

Some of these women dodge cars in peak-hour traffic to sell newspapers for a living.

Exactly the right kind of job for schoolboys who want pocket money and not for mothers who want to put a plate of food on the table to feed hungry mouths.

Back to the sister in a blue dust coat.

Spare a thought for her.

Many of us have enjoyed, even wallowed in, the merriment of Christmas and look forward to the new year - but what happens to her?

I conjure up images of her in a shack at a squatters' camp named after one of the struggle heroes - one who, incidentally, is now a cabinet member who regularly promises the "people" adequate housing, jobs, education and free healthcare.

So, considering all this, it is with trepidation that I got into the spirit of goodwill and happiness to all mankind.

I know that I could have done something, not only for the woman in gumboots on Christmas Eve, but also for the scavengers who scrape my dustbin for leftovers every Monday morning in the leafy southern suburb where I live.

Anyway, lest I spoil the festive mood, I could not help remember the face of the tired and thirsty woman in gumboots.