Nurse turns migrant workers’ lives around

When he was forced into exile here eight years ago, Butholezwe Nyathi experienced a refugee’s difficult life. This drove him to help form the Migrant Workers’ Association-SA.

Butholezwe Nyathi: “As vulnerable people, we have to organise ourselves and come up with survival and developmental strategies.”
Butholezwe Nyathi: “As vulnerable people, we have to organise ourselves and come up with survival and developmental strategies.”

“Migrants here face a lot of labour-related challenges and exploitation. We have mobilised people from different countries in the SADC region to join our cause and get representation,” he explained.

The organisation, still growing rapidly, has engaged a legal firm that specialises in labour law to train its members to be paralegal officers, labour relations officers and employee wellness officers.

Nyathi is the National Coordinator for the organisation, which draws its representation from various migrant nationalities.

A key fixture in its existence is the representation of members in cases from internal company procedures, through CCMA up to the labour court.

“My passion, as a humanist, is to see the socio-economic situation of migrants, both political and economic, getting better regardless of their nationality. As vulnerable people, we have to organise ourselves and come up with survival and developmental strategies,” said Nyathi. “Through the experience I got from working with different humanitarian organisations like the Southern African Women’s Institute for Migration Affairs, Touch of Care and various HIV clinics, I noted that migrants needed to organise and help themselves,” added the Kezi-born activist.

“I have dedicated myself to help. I encourage people to contact us through our website so that we take these processes forward.”

Nyathi, an MDC supporter, was born in 1979 and grew up in “an average family” like most rural boys – herding cattle and donkeys.

“I used to walk barefoot for 14 kilometres to and from school. At the age of 14 years, I left for Bulawayo, where I completed my high school education at Mpopoma High.”

After temporary teaching attempts had failed, he trained as a nurse at Bulawayo’s Mpilo Central Hospital in 2000-03. “That is when I joined student activism in the SRC, where I served as the Vice President. During our tenure, we steered the formation of the National Student Nurses Association.

At local level, we did a lot of engagements with management. I joined political activism as an underground cadre of the MDC in 2001 and my activities saw me forced into exile in 2003,” he added.

Settling in South Africa was not easy. “Unlike in other countries, where people are documented and settled, SA documents and leaves asylum seekers to integrate into the community on their own.

This means one has to look for a job to survive. I had to work at construction companies for a living. At one time, I sold sweets and gloves at a street corner. I struggled with the help of some legal experts to challenge the Home Affairs Department to clear me to register and practice as a nurse.

It was after I was registered that my life finally changed for the better. I am now an HIV Clinician and I enjoy saving lives,” he said.

Post published in: Africa News

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