What are your thoughts on xenophobia?
I understand that people are frustrated, but I think there are other ways in which their frustrations can be resolved. I am shocked at what is happening, especially since I meet so many foreigners on a daily basis.
I pray that it will end and that we can find it in our hearts to live together in peace.
What’s your best quality?
I think it would have to be my ability to communicate with people.
What is your pet hate?
Rude people. I don’t like it when people have bad attitudes.
Lavista prides himself on knowing how to greet people in many different languages. He’s been selling The Big Issue on Greenmarket Square since he first became a vendor in 2009. The area sees many tourists on a daily basis and Lavista has made it his mission to greet people from all over the world in their home language.
Upon entering the interview room, he says, “Hallo, hoe gaan dit?” with a broad, inviting grin. It’s not hard to see why this vendor is a favourite among his customers – and why his sales are through the roof. We got to know him a little better…
Before I joined The Big Issue, I worked on a ship. I painted it and helped clean up. It was hard work, but it paid the bills and kept me in shape. After my contract expired, a friend told me about The Big Issue. He said that they would help me until I found a better job, so I decided to give it a shot.
I joined the magazine in 2009 and selling it was hard at first. I had never approached strangers on the street before. This was the scariest thing I had ever done. When I relaxed and stopped worrying about being rejected, I realised that people are really nice. Especially people visiting from other countries.
Tourists want to be accepted just as I want to be accepted, and they like to see that I have made an effort to learn a little bit about them, just as they make the effort with me. I enjoy greeting people in their mother tongue because on my first day at my pitch someone greeted me in Xhosa and it made me feel comfortable. It made me feel a little bit at home on my big, scary pitch.
I can greet people in German, French, Spanish, English, Afrikaans and Mandarin, to name just a few. Selling The Big Issue hasn’t always been easy, but I do what I can to make a living. I sell up to 35 magazines a day when the book is new, but when it gets old I can sell only up to 20.
When I am sick and can’t work, my sales really suffer. I try not to miss work because I really love the job. I love interacting with different people and learning about their cultures. I consider myself a rich man because I’ve accumulated many experiences over the years.
I would like to become a tour guide one day, because I’d like to show people around our beautiful city. My big dream would be to travel the world and experience other ways of living.