Security guards who works for Wits University at the Sunnyside Residence for girls, are using their creative skills to bridge the income gap many South Africans are facing.

CRAFT INTO CASH: Wits Security guards make jewelry. Photo: Michelle Gumede

CRAFT INTO CASH: Wits Security guards make jewellery to supplement their incomes. Photo: Michelle Gumede


Ethel Ncube is a 60-year-old security guard who makes ear-rings, bangles, neckpieces and baby booties.

“I use shells, plant matter, beads and wool to make accessories,” she says

“Ma’E”, as she is affectionately known , started working at Wits University in 1988 but has been making jewellery for a longer time. Her grandmother taught her the art of crocheting when she was still a little girl in Soweto and she’s continued with the skill until now.

Ma’E has always had a passion for fashion and looking good herself. Through her craft she’s been able to share her passion and talent with other people.

Ma’E says: “I sometimes give students my work for free because I have a great love for crocheting.”

In 2012, Ma’E helped some drama students out who lived in Sunnyside res by supplying them with props like hats, belts and jewellery for their final end-of-year student production.

“I know students don’t have money, so I sell mainly to people in my neighbourhood of Soweto plus workers are not allowed to trade on campus,” she says.

Income tax has gone up this year and the petrol price has recently dramatically risen. All South Africans will feel this increase in areas such as food and transport among other services.

“The cost of living is high,” says Ma’E. She has grandchildren at home so she has to try to find ways to support them. Making less than R1,000 monthly from her products helps her cover things like transport to get to work.

Leather repair service

The night-time security guard also uses his creative talents to make extra money. Welcome Ngcobo, “Bab’ Ngcobo”, as he is respectfully known, repairs leather shoes, belts and bags. It’s something he says he enjoys doing because it relaxes him when he is stressed and allows him to express his creativity while making extra money.

“Isimo somnotho sib’cayi,” (times are economically tough), says Bab’ Ngcobo.

According to Bab’ Ngcobo, the extra money he makes allows him to pay subsidies and provide for his children.

All the young people from his village learnt different skills like beading, gardening, sewing and herding livestock. He chose to specialise in arts and crafts as he loves creative work.

Living in South Africa is not cheap at the moment. WitsVuvuzela would like to hear how you are beating the economic blues this winter. Write to us at