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I’ve been asking myself whether business opportunities were reserved for a select few. Now I have hope and soon I’ll wave goodbye to poverty,” said Sipho Mlonzi at a Jozi@Work registration and briefing session at the Zakariyya Park Community Hall in Zakariyya Park, Region G, on Monday November 24.

The inspired 38-year-old father of two boys joined 160 residents at the hall to listen to how the City of Johannesburg plans to empower ordinary residents through Jozi@Work packages and employment opportunities.

At present, Mlonzi’s only source of income is the R500 monthly Community Work Programme stipend he receives for cleaning his neighbourhood of Vlakfontein Extension Three.

Twice a week – on Mondays and Tuesdays – Mlonzi sweeps the streets, takes garbage bags to a collection point and cleans blocked stormwater drains.

“I’ve been on the Community Work Programme for the past two months. The money we get is not great, but what else can I do? At least I can afford to give my children some lunch money.”

The programme falls under the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs and is aimed at reducing unemployment in urban and rural areas.

Before being retrenched after the completion of the building of the 2010 Soccer World Cup stadiums, Mlonzi worked for an electrical and plumbing company.

Now he wants to establish a construction company and take advantage of the opportunities Jozi@Work presents.

Jozi@Work, a brainchild of Executive Mayor Councillor Parks Tau, seeks to create more than 11 000 job opportunities in the current financial year and almost 40 000 by 2016-2017.

Through the programme, the City will source goods and services such as street cleaning, refuse removal, servicing of chemical toilets, separating and recycling waste at municipal dumps, resurfacing and maintenance of roads and providing frontline support to water and power infrastructure from neighbourhood cooperatives and micro-enterprises.

“Our residents will be our suppliers as well as our customers. Transacting locally will make them better at being both,” says Mayor Tau.

Mlonzi was due to return to the Zakariyya Park Community Hall to register his new construction business and create a legacy for his two boys. 
“I want a brighter future for my boys,” he said.