Chivi Mudzvamuse, 48, a street seller in Proclamation Hill, west of Pretoria, came to South Africa in August 2008, leaving his five children and wife in a Zimbabwe, ravaged by the economic downturn and hyper inflation as a result of its poor economic policies of late 1990s and early 2000s, in order to start a business in South Africa to support his family.
Mudzvamuse sells vegetables, fruits, flavoured popcorn, cigarettes, and even chalk stones, which are also eaten. When he came to South Africa he had R350 in his pocket, most of which was spent on rent. Having no money for a taxi, he walked the approximately four kilometres to Marabastad and bought a packet of 32 oranges for R9. He sold them all in a few hours for R1 each, making more than triple the money back. Mudzvamuse expanded his offerings and makes just enough money to put his children through school, pay R600 at a new place, buy more stock and support his family.
Mudzvamuse’s business stands in front of a sprawling golf park next to Quagga Mall. Every day he packs up his stock and begins the one kilometre journey uphill to his rented house on Nikkel Street in Proclamation Hill.
“My life is better (in South Africa) because here if I do something, I get something. In my country there’s no stable economy like here,” Mudzvamuse says.
His dream is to grow his 12-hectare maize, sorghum, cotton and ground nuts farm in Zimbabwe, farming professionally, and see his children through their education. “So my future when I finish (taking my children through school) at home, I have nine cows, so I want to keep them. After that when [I have more money, I want to] put a water system on my plot.” Mudzvamuse says selling his cows is tempting due to his difficult circumstances. But he thinks it will work out better in the long run if he does not.
Mudzvamuse says growing his business is challenging because his profit goes almost entirely to supporting his family in terms of food and education. “If I raise a little money I (only) solve another problem,” says Mudzvamuse. Before his mother died some of the money he sent home went to taking care of her ailing mother. “So there’s some problems which I meet actually. As a person I try to (make) some plans to survive. My tomorrow I hope will be better than now.”