The recession is real. And not just in the U.S. In fact unemployment is so high in South Africa, more than half a dozen young men DIED trying to qualify for traffic cop jobs. Another 230 collapsed, but a whopping 15,500 people took part in the test in competition for a mere 90 jobs!!!
The massive crowd of jobseekers took part in the deadly fitness test – which was held in a football stadium – after they each received text messages informing them they had been ‘shortlisted’ for the precious traffic police jobs.
They were told that they needed to complete a 2.4 mile jog within thirty minutes to meet the force’s minimum fitness level requirement.
But by the time they started running late last Thursday afternoon, temperatures inside Pietermaritzburg’s Harry Gwala football stadium had reached over 91.5 degrees Fahrenheit.
Many of the desperate jobseekers had neither eaten nor drunk anything all day. They all had very limited access to drinking water.
A total of 230 people collapsed from heat exhaustion and dehydration during the run. Of these, six died. A seventh man committed suicide by slitting his throat when he learnt he had not finished the race in time.
Among the dead was Lenny Nxumalo, 28-year-old father of two whose body was only discovered over four hours after he died when the vast crowd finally cleared out of the stadium.
He had collapsed having completed the race with ten minutes to spare.
Yesterday his best friend Brian Ngcobo told the local The Witness newspaper: ‘My friend was so determined to become a traffic officer that he ran his life out because he was such a dedicated person.’
The tragedy is just the latest example of the problems that can occur when South Africa’s desperate youth – who face an effective unemployment rate of around 40 per cent – struggle to make successes of their lives. Government positions, such as those with the police force or army, are highly sought after as they are relatively well paid, have low entry criteria and because the application process positively discriminates in favour of blacks.
Previous ‘mass job interviews’ for jobs such as these have seen tens of thousands of desperately poor and ill-educated young people descend on a location in the hope of securing one of perhaps just a dozen positions.
In this latest example, over 150,000 people applied for the 90 jobs within the regional KwaZulu Natal traffic police department.
Of these, 34,000 were sent text messages on Christmas Day telling them to report to the Harry Gwala stadium in two groups on Thursday and Friday.
The politician responsible confirmed that ‘more than 34,000 applicants qualified for the 90 trainee posts which were advertised’, but that ‘scores of them could not cope with the hot weather condition and collapsed.’
South Africa’s Communist Party – which is in political alliance with the ruling African National Congress – demanded a full inquiry into the traffic police fitness test tragedy.
And the opposition Inkatha Freedom Party has called on Willies Mchunu, the politician with ultimate responsibility for the debacle, to step down.
‘What happened in Pietermaritzburg was a classic display of being power-drunk, to an extent treating ordinary suffering people as subhuman.
‘No one in their right mind could in the first place short-list about 35,000 people for just 90 jobs,’IFP politician Blessed Gwala said.’
This is just crazy. Somebody has to be held responsible for these deaths!