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Pay, Not Politics, Deciding Factor for Some Workers With PM-South Africa

August 4, 1992

SOWETO, South Africa (AP) _ While millions of blacks stayed home from work, Daniel Sithole stood behind his food stall at the Dube train station hoping for customers.

Pay, not politics, proved the deciding factor for many blacks who, like Sithole, defied the African National Congress’ national strike call and went to work on a cold winter’s morning.

″I’m working because I don’t have any money,″ said Sithole, 32, who has been selling eggs, bananas, onions, chewing gum and other odds and ends at the Dube train station since 1988.

Down the littered hill and across the road, a travel agency, hairdressing salon and bazaar were boarded up, as were most businesses in the sprawling township outside Johannesburg.

But at a fast-food restaurant, unused take-away boxes were stacked nearly to the ceiling while an employee, who called herself Mary, stacked loaves of fresh bread on racks.

″They’ll come here because all the stores are closed,″ she said confidently when asked what would happen to all the bread.

″They need this bread. They know that bread is the soul of life.″

For Sithole, the two-day anti-government strike is another blow to a business already affected by political turmoil. From his makeshift market just outside the station turnstyles, Sithole has seen his income drop dramatically in recent months because of attacks on black train riders.

″We can make 40 to 50 rand on a good day now, but it used to be 70 or 80,″ Sithole said Monday as he burned a cardboard box to keep warm. Fifty rand is about $18.

″But business is so bad now, since they started killing each other on the trains. All our customers are scared to come here,″ he said.

Police say the train attacks are a carryover from political clashes between the ANC and the rival Inkatha Freedom Party. More than 150 commuters have been slain in the past year.

By 9:30 a.m. Monday, a good three hours into his day, Sithole said he had made no money. Trains that passed were virtually empty, and the station platform was deserted.

Sithole began digging bottles of cheap brandy out of a box, perhaps hoping to lure one of the few people who walked by.

So far, he said, he has not been threatened or otherwise intimidated by strike supporters. ″Maybe they will trouble us later, but we just try to make a living,″ he said.

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