SICK, tired and bullied

Vusi Ndlovu

Vusi Ndlovu

Poppy Sigabi has three life-threatening diseases that have caused her to be retrenched many times.

She suffers from epilepsy, asthma and heart disease.

Her disability grant was withdrawn last year and she resorted to street trading, but the Johannesburg Metro Police Department (JMPD) won't stop harassing her, accusing her of infringing municipal bylaws.

Sigabi, 39, of Naledi, sells beadwork, jewellery, fruit and vegetables outside the Jabulani Mall in Soweto. She insists she will continue plying her trade despite the constant harassment.

She says she was retrenched from the companies she worked for because of her ill health.

"The last company I worked for was Namitech where I was doing administrative work. I was retrenched in 2006. I used my severance package to start a business to sell beadwork in the Johannesburg city centre.

"Most of my clients were tourists. It was doing well but I stopped because of the harassment by the metro police.

"They confiscated my stock. I quit and applied for the disability grant, but it was stopped last year, which forced me back to street trading. Abuse by the metro police still continues," Sigabi says.

She says being a hawker is the only thing she can do to survive.

"The disability grant was R940 a month. With street trading I make up to R700 on a good day," she says..

"The disability grant was not enough to pay expenses related to my illnesses.

"My food is expensive because I am on a special diet. I have to buy oxygen and medication. The money I make covers all this and I even help buy other things needed at home."

Sigabi says she once lost consciousness when she was attacked but police at the Jabulani police station refused to allow her to open a case.

"They told me we [hawkers] have been warned about trading outside the mall," she says.

"On March 6, metro police attacked me. They tore my clothes during the scuffle. I opened a case but up to now I have not been informed of any development."