PITCH: Orange Street, Gardens, Cape Town, South Africa
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The Big Issue vendor Cynthia Gogotya is a role model to her family, community and fellow vendors. She shares her experiences of the last three months.
Words: Alicia English Image by: Supplied
Big Issue vendor Cynthia Gogotya, 54, is determined to rise above the challenges thrown her way by the coronavirus pandemic and the national lockdown. The grandmother of five, who lives with her 14 relatives in her family home in Nyanga, seized the opportunity during the lockdown to start her own business, sewing and selling masks.
“I have been sewing masks from home, which I sell for R30 at my pitch and half the price in my community. I make it for free to children in my area, and recently donated some to two families who had funerals in our community. I am happy that I can provide for my family in this way,” she says.
Cynthia and her family live from hand to mouth – only one other person in her household of 15 has a full-time job. “I started the lockdown with a few hundred rands in savings, which were quickly depleted. My sister, who is the only one in the house that has a job, wasn’t working either.
“Unlike many people who are still getting paid while they are at home, we don’t have that financial security as vendors. That is why we are relying on the support of our customers. I was grateful to receive some relief funds from the organisation; every little bit helps. One of my customers also gave me a food parcel the first time I returned to my pitch,” she says.
Cynthia has been selling The Big Issue magazine for 14 years. Like many of her fellow vendors, she was glad to be back at her pitch. Hers is opposite the Engen petrol station in Oranjezicht. “Business is quiet at the pitch because people are still scared to make contact. I am grateful for the support from my regular customers though. They are concerned about how I’m surviving during this time and have been very supportive.
“While some people discriminate against me because of the colour of my skin, my loyal customers are friendly and happy. They always tell me to stay safe during this time,” she says.
While feeding her family is her top priority, Cynthia still has compassion for her feathery friends who visit her at her pitch. “I usually feed the pigeons at my pitch. Today, I couldn’t give them anything, as I had no bread to share with them,” she adds.
A BRIGHTER FUTURE
Cynthia has big dreams for herself and her family and believes continuing to show respect to others will aid her in her endeavours. “I would like to grow my business and create jobs for my relatives and people in my community. One day I will have my own factory. My late mother used to sew, and I learnt the trade from her as a young child. She always told me that respect goes a long way, and that is what I am applying at my pitch and in my business selling masks,” she says.
She also has a message of hope for her fellow vendors. “Let’s continue to follow the lockdown rules and always wear your mask when you’re outside. Let us be strong and have hope that this, too, will pass. There’s been many other sicknesses and diseases like HIV/Aids that have affected our lives, but we’ve always been able to carry on. We need to have hope that it (coronavirus pandemic) will one day will be over.”