PITCH: Buitengracht Street/Somerset Road intersection, Cape Town
Words: Lungisa Mnqwazi
Image: Lungisa Mnqwazi
Zukiswa Mqikelana, 46, is a natural entrepreneur. When she arrived in Cape Town in 1992, she started her own micro business, selling offal with the help of her husband. “I’ve always been passionate about being my own boss, and I would like to start my own business again,” she says. This year marks her 21st year as a Big Issue vendor. Her journey with the organisation started in 2008, and she still enjoys selling the magazine from her pitch at the Buitengracht Street/Somerset Road intersection in the Mother City. Zukiswa is the only breadwinner in her family, as her husband is unemployed. Despite her family’s socioeconomic challenges, she is determined to provide for her family and would like to see her children succeed and reach their full potential. “I have four children: three girls; and my last-born is a boy. Every parent wants to raise their children in a way that prepares them to live fulfilled, happy and productive lives. I try so hard to be the best parent in the world, but then life’s reality hits. “My husband is trying hard to find employment, with no luck. He still assists us where he can. As a mother, you have a duty to see to it that your children are living like any other children,” she explains. Zukiswa works around the clock to ensure that her home and work life run smoothly. “I start my day very early, preparing for my children to go to school. Only then do I get ready for work and make my way to my pitch in town. Staying in a township is not easy, especially if you are a woman, as you have to dodge the bullets to get to the taxi rank and to work,” she says.
Despite her personal battles, Zukiswa always strives to greet her customers with a smile. “Like a predator hunting for its prey, you have to wear a smile, even when you feel exhausted because that’s your golden ticket to your next meal.” Her workload doesn’t end when she leaves her pitch at night. “After a long day of hustling, I must come back to my wifely and motherly duties, so I don’t have time to rest at all,” she adds. Zukiswa has big dreams for her children, especially her eldest daughter, who couldn’t study after passing matric due to financial constraints. “She is a clever child and would like to study electrical engineering. I wish a Good Samaritan could assist my child to realise her dream.”