'I don't have anything': Mango employees tell of struggles to make ends meet

The COVID-19 pandemic has been tough on the aviation sector with lockdown restrictions grounding many fleets. But it's been particularly heartbreaking for thousands of employees who've been trying to hold on to their jobs.

FILE: The interior of a Mango Airlines plane. Picture: @FlyMangoSA/Facebook

JOHANNESBURG - Workers at cash-strapped Mango Airlines have given some insight into how they're surviving without their salaries.

Some have had to move in with family, while others battle to keep the banks from their doorsteps.

Mango staff last received their wages back in May and even before that, they had to contend with salary cuts.

Sipho Sono has been appointed to oversee the airline's voluntary business rescue process after the High Court in Johannesburg ruled in favour of Mango management. It's not yet clear how long the process will take but for those who've been trying to hold on to their jobs, it has been a painful and undignified journey as they battle to put food on the table.

Eyewitness News spoke to employees on the condition that we protected their identities.

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The COVID-19 pandemic has been tough on the aviation sector, with lockdown restrictions grounding many fleets. But it's been particularly heartbreaking for thousands of employees who've been trying to hold on to their jobs.

With more than 20 years of experience in the aviation sector, one woman who has been at Mango for five years tells Eyewitness News that she's lost her house, car, medical aid, life policies for her son and that her grandparents are now taking care of her with their meager pension money.

"I’m just grateful now cause I’m staying with my grandparents who are 90. I have got a warm bed and a plate of food. Other than that, I don't have anything. I’m almost 40, where am I going to find a job? They are looking for young people to work. I don’t know anywhere else to turn to.

"I don't think they know what we are going through. As we enter the business rescue, I'm hoping that jobs will be saved. At least if they give us one month's salary to at least try and pay something and put food on the table. That's the main concern at the moment because we don't have anything, we don't have money to buy food," she said.

Many of her colleagues are facing similar agonising circumstances. Another employee who has been with Mango since the airline first took to the skies in 2006 has been borrowing money from friends and family just to survive.

"The banks were calling because you were overdue on your bond, you were overdue on your credit card. Now they send you messages like 'we have to hand you over to the lawyers because of non-payment for your credit card' - it’s terrible. I must say thank you to family who helped us out financially. My brothers, my sister, good friends who kept on checking in on us: do you have a loaf of bread on the table? Do you have lights? That sort of stuff."

The last full salary he received was also in May, however, he's chosen to go to work every day. And while Mango has yet to indicate when its workers will get the money due to them, he only hopes that his loyalty will be returned by the very company he's trying to save.

"The debt is recurring by the thousands. If there is any restructuring, I'm willing to play my part and take the chance - you've got to keep a positive mindset and just look forward and hope there is a better picture out of all of this."

With over 20 years of experience in the aviation sector, he said that he would not hesitate to leave if the business rescue process dragged on for too long and another opportunity arose.

Mango has not yet given any indication of when salaries will be paid.

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