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Big Issue South Africa: The reality of life on the streets

Vendors from our sister title Big Issue South Africa on how they are 'setting an example' for their children

Big Issue South Africa vendor Nancy Mngqelana

Last week, president Jacob Zuma finally bowed to mounting pressure and resigned, giving South Africa fresh hope. The embattled former ANC leader, 75, was offered the option of standing down or fighting a no-confidence vote as he faces allegations of corruption.

South Africa’s Constitutional Court ordered Zuma to repay £13.7m in public funds spent on refurbishing his private homestead, and he also faces more than 783 allegations of corruption relating to a 1990s arms deal. Zuma chose to fall on his sword, ending his nine-year tenure and handing over to deputy Cyril Ramaphosa.

The new president faces both man-made and natural crises

The new president faces both man-made and natural crises, with the economy being rated as Junk by financial agency S&P, and Cape Town in the midst of a devastating drought. We asked people marginalised and living on the edges of the society, vendors of our sister title Big Issue South Africa, to tell us about the realities of life on the streets there.

Progress Cembi, 46… is making progress

Big Issue South Africa vendor Progress Cembi

I moved to Cape Town in 1997 to seek employment. Before joining The Big Issue in 1999, I had several jobs in warehouses. I left a few months later after getting work as a cleaner at a military hospital. In 2008 I returned to The Big Issue.

I enjoy being a Big Issue entrepreneur, because it teaches independence and how to work with people. I am now able to afford necessities and provide for myself and my family.

I enjoy being a Big Issue entrepreneur, because it teaches independence and how to work with people

I have two boys whom I love so much and it’s important that I provide for them and set an example of how to be a good father. Working for myself also gives me the opportunity to visit my family regularly back home in the Eastern Cape – my eldest son lives there .

I am great with my sales. I work well with people and have a good relationship with my clients and other vendors. I am a hard-working individual. I am a person who loves to learn, and I never say no to something that will benefit my development.

The Big Issue gave me the opportunity to take a short computer course at Silulo Ulutho Technologies. It was a great experience, as I wasn’t exposed to computers before. The technology was fast-paced but I didn’t let that get in the way of me reaching my goals. I finished the course and I got my certificate.

When I’m not at work, I spend my time working out or bonding with my other son, who lives with me. I like to keep healthy, as I want to see my boys become good men, because we are living in a time in which the world is faced with many troubles. My boys are my pride and joy. My wish is that they progress in their studies, as I never had the opportunities they have today.

Nancy Mngqelana, 53… is sewing the seeds for a better future

Big Issue South Africa vendor Nancy Mngqelana

I can truly say that I am a happy soul, and that I live for my children.

I’m originally from Dutywa in the Eastern Cape, but I moved to Cape Town in 1989 to find employment. I wasn’t lucky in finding a job due to my disability. I was in a bus accident many years ago and the bus caught light. We had no option but to jump through the windows, and I fell and broke my arm.

Even though my arm was no longer straight, I could still use it so the Eastern Cape health department wouldn’t classify me as disabled. It was only when I arrived in Cape Town that I was told I’m disabled and started receiving a disability grant.

I was in a bus accident years ago, and broke my arm. Only when I arrived in Cape Town was I told that I’m disabled

I joined The Big Issue in 2010. I was introduced to the magazine by a friend who was also a vendor. It’s a wonderful experience. I love my customers and what I do, and the love is mutual. When they don’t see me at certain times, they ask me where I’ve been the next time I’m on my pitch. My customers are mostly senior citizens, but I sometimes get young adults too.

Being an entrepreneur has empowered me so much that I’ve become a stokvel member [a stokvel is an invitation-only club where a rotating cast of members act as a credit union, with members contributing on a regular basis]. I visit my home in the Eastern Cape more than once a year, and I am able to spoil my children.

Big Issue South Africa May 2017

I have three kids. I live with my two youngest ones, and my eldest is in Grade 11 in the Eastern Cape. I want nothing but the best for my children. My wish is for them to succeed in their studies and become independent people.

I like to keep busy, and even work on weekends. I plan on registering for The Big Issue’s sewing development course so that I can polish my sewing skills. I would also like to buy a sewing machine so that I can start a small business on the side, as it gets a bit difficult to work on rainy days.

www.bigissue.org.za

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For over 30 years, the Big Issue has been committed to ending poverty in the UK. In 2024, our work is needed more than ever. Find out how you can support the Big Issue today.
Vendor martin Hawes

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