Forced to Leave Home and Family in Order to Survive

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By Petronella Sibeene WINDHOEK She wakes up early in the morning, at least by 06h00, cleans up a one-roomed place where she lives with her fellow countrywoman. An hour after jumping out of bed, they start their 3ÃÆ’Æ‘ÀÃ…ÃÆ”šÃ‚ kilometre-long journey on foot to get to the spot where they market their merchandise. “I am originally from Zimbabwe. I am a widow and, given the situation back home, I am here to do business. I sell drawers, chairs and tables,” says Anna Gumede, aged 40 years. It all started when her husband of many years passed away. With little support from relatives, she finds herself flat broke with two small children to support. While her husband was still alive, Gumede was a housewife who did not just stay at home but, during her busy day of fulfilling wifely duties, she would also knit items such as jerseys and sell them to supplement her husband’s salary. Being a single parent to two boys aged 14 and 8, and with no one to turn to for help, she could not just continue with her knitting business at home, also given the flooded market. With the performance of African economies in general, and Zimbabwean in particular, Gumede found life in her home country hard. “In 2000 I decided to come to Namibia. I knew there were other people who had crossed borders for greener pastures. I knew I had to do something about my situation and with the little money I had collected from selling my things (jerseys), I bought small baskets and clay pots,” she narrates. Always seeking to improve her lot in life, Gumede decided to embark on a different business which she hoped would enable her to gain some financial stability. She left Zimbabwe and her two sons behind, in their own care. The courageous woman found herself on a bus heading for Windhoek, a totally new place – needless to say, a foreign land. She met other women and men searching for the same treasure as herself. “I managed to find one room with my other friend (also a Zimbabwean) where we pay N$400 per month,” she says. “Business was not bad at all” and, within a few months of trading in small baskets and clay pots, she decided to “grow big” and started bringing in drawers, and chairs. “A drawer sells for N$350 and three pieces of chairs are sold for N$1ÃÆ’Æ‘ÀÃ…ÃÆ”šÃ‚ 500. All her prices are negotiable,” she said. From 07h30 when her business opens until 5pm when it closes, Gumede does not only wait for potential customers but spends her day polishing her commodities and trimming her baskets. In a day she sells one or two items, and during the “good days” such as at month-end she can sell about five items. With the little profit she makes, she has been able to support her children and send them to school in the past six years. As an African, she also helps other relatives. “I go home every month, anyway; it depends on how much profit I make and in what period. I miss being at home most of the time but, given the circumstances, I just have to continue with my business,” Gumede says. She describes Namibians as understanding people, but adds that there are some who mock them, understandably – xenophobia is everywhere. She intends to expand her business even further by venturing into selling textiles. Gumede says that in the past men were proudly in charge of providing for the family but, with the socio-economic problems in the world of today, things have changed. Women leave what was once regarded as their rightful place – the kitchen – and now go to look for what should be in the kitchen – food. “I encourage fellow women to do some form of business to support their children. We are living in a world where for every little thing you ‘throw’ into you mouth, it costs money,” she advises. She graciously stated: “Poverty and a lack of support did not deter me from searching for a better life and securing a future for my children.” Gumede’s lifelong struggle to survive poverty is really the story of many, although there might be a slight difference in the form it takes. A man in his early 20s, a diploma-holder in marketing with two years’ experience in this field, today sells hand-made crafts in the streets of Windhoek. Like many others, Gift Moyo came to Namibia three months ago to seek greener pastures. “I am here because of the economic conditions and hardships experienced at home,” he says. He explains that there are many factors which have prompted many people to leave their countries of origin, but the most prevailing one is poor economies. After gaining experience as a sales person, he decided to start his own business, involving the rearing of chickens. When the economic situation became bad in his country, business was also affected. “I sold chickens, but then things became bad … chicken became a luxury to most people and, because of such factors, I had to venture into a business which would bring in foreign currency,” he says. For three months he struggled to raise ZW$12 million (ÃÆ’Æ‘ÀÃ…ÃÆ”šÃ‚±R1ÃÆ’Æ‘ÀÃ…ÃÆ”šÃ‚ 000) which he needed at the time for transport purposes and buying goods for sale. “I bought wood carvings and other things such as African bracelets. Those were the things I brought.” Quite new in this country, and business as well, he describes the three months as full of “mixed fortunes”. According to him, his situation has improved slightly, though there are certain challenges. It is difficult to find a place where one can fully establish oneself. Further, obtaining a business visa has always remained a headache in Namibia. “I could be better off where I am now than those back home, but surely this is not what I had planned for my life,” says the young man.

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