His charming personality has seen him gain a number of loyal customers throughout the years while making great sales.
Words and Photography: Yonga Balfour
Mziwethemba, known as Themba, has been a Big Issue entrepreneur on a full- and part-time basis for decades. His charming personality has seen him gain a number of loyal customers throughout the years while making great sales.
“I’ve been selling The Big Issue for a very long time. I’ve done this between jobs and on a permanent basis; it has become my home. I have a healthy relationship with my customers. When I’m not at my pitch, they call to check whether I’m okay, because you never know what can happen to one in the times we’re living in. I stay in Delft, an area known for being unsafe,” he says. “Before selling the magazine, I used to work in hotel restaurants. That’s when I decided I wanted to pursue studies in travel and tourism. I fell in love with working with people from all over the world – I love knowing about their cultures and lifestyles. Later, I moved on to The Big Issue where one my readers contributed [financially] to my toursim studies at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology.”
Themba’s studies didn’t prevent him from selling The Big Issue. He sustained himself with his profits. “I talk a lot with people at my pitch and was introduced to a tour guide company called Brothers Fedament Tours and Aventures. I applied to do my in-service training there and was accepted. On weekends, I’d guide tourists through the townships and after my work hours I’d sell The Big Issue to them,” he adds.
The father of two is committed to The Big Issue, but has other plans for the future.
“I plan to renew my tour guide documentation, get a new badge and obtain a driving licence. I had to press pause on my career as a tour guide because my children were young and I wanted to spend time with them. Now that they are much older – one is in varsity and the other finishing high school – that gives me more time to explore on my dreams,” he concludes.
Themba enjoys soccer; Kaizer Chiefs is his favourite team. He loves reading The Big Issue’s ‘I am a Vendor’ section and finding out about famous people. He also loves the sport section in the Daily Sun newspaper. His spare time is spent with friends watching the World Cup.
The Big Issue appeals to all public space and shopping mall owners, managers and operators in the greater Cape Metro area to allow our vendors to sell magazines at their sites. It can be hazardous and is physically exhausting to sell The Big Issue at traffic intersections, especially during winter. We would like to see more vendors selling the magazine in a safer environment. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to get involved.