Windhoek-Fifty-three-year-old Martin Mushimba is not your normal car guard. Stationed in Independence Avenue, one of the busiest streets in Windhoek’s central business district, it is difficult to recognise that Mushimba is the proud owner of a mini bookshop not far from where he guards cars.
Mushimba has two employees who are responsible for ordering, collecting and packing the books while he focuses on guarding cars.
“We don’t want to steal. We are meeting the government halfway by employing these people,” he explains, when asked how he started selling Bibles and other Christian material, mostly literature.
It all started about 18 years ago when Mushimba, who at one point worked as a salesperson for the Bible Society of Namibia, decided to sell Bibles from a shelf in Independence Avenue.
He has not moved location ever since because the owners of the shop from where he sells the Bibles was generous enough to allow him to set up his business there.
Mushimba started with 40 Bibles in the languages of Oshindonga, Oshikwanyama and Otjiherero. Today he sells Bibles in English, Portuguese and Afrikaans as well as other Christian literature. Customers are from all over Windhoek and beyond.
Mushimba and one of his colleagues, Keith Harawa, also repair covers of damaged Bibles.
“We make the covers ourselves. We buy the material and replace the damaged Bible covers with new ones,” Mushimba says, presenting some of the work he has done on damaged Bibles.
When Mushimba started out the aim was to make a living. Today, however, selling Bibles and guarding cars have become his passion. Part of his daily routine is to buy newspapers to keep abreast of local and international events, Mushimba explains.
“Namibians love to read that’s why I brought in other Christian literature,” he adds. Meanwhile, Harawa also explains that Namibians love to read. “They want to read but they can’t find their Bibles here because we currently do not have Bibles in local languages,” said Harawa.
But Peter Nganga (Jnr) who also sells Christian and self-help books does not agree that Namibians are fond of reading.
“The majority of those who are fond of reading are people who are 30 years and above. The younger ones do not read that much. It would be good if the reading culture is inculcated at a very early age,” Nganga said.
Touching on the benefits of reading, Nganga added that people learn new ideas from reading.
“You can be motivated and learn how to live correctly just by reading a book. It’s better if people start reading while they are young. It really helps,” Nganga says, stressing that schools should encourage the youth to start reading at an early age.
“I am currently reading the 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene and Think and Grown Rich by Brown Tracey,” Nganga responds when asked what he is presently reading.
Meanwhile, Harawa said it takes a while to stock up on the Bibles because they are shipped from abroad. “The shortage of Bibles in local languages sometimes lasts for six months up to four years.”
“People must read the Word of God because the solutions to everyday circumstances are in the Bible,” Harawa adds.
Harawa believes that there is potential for their business to grow and although the initial motivation for selling was for an income, he believes that selling Bibles and Christian literature is his “calling”.
“We just need to buy stock. We don’t have a lot of money to buy books but many churches want us to sell their material,” said Harawa.
He also believes printing Bibles locally would be to the advantage of local Bible vendors. “It’s better than having to ship Bibles from China because it takes long for them to arrive.”
Harawa adds that they sometimes have to refer their customers to established bookstores when their stock is finished. “Sometimes we also buy stock from them so there is no competition between us,” said Harawa.
Furthermore, he believes that the Bible should be taught in schools. “If Bibles are introduced in schools, communities will change for the better. Young people now don’t have respect so it would help in that regard. Also, we will have more clients who buy youth and kids’ Bibles,” Harawa said.
Natasha Rust, the fundraising and communication manager of the Bible Society of Namibia, explained that there are volunteers who work with the Bible Society of Namibia to sell Bibles.
“They buy the Bibles from us and sell them at a rate that we negotiate. The idea is to keep the prices low,” explained Rust.
She also explained that the shortage of Bibles in local languages is because they are shipped into the country from Eastern countries.
It is costly to buy a few Bibles, therefore the Bibles are bought in bulk and a full container is shipped to Namibia.
“People still like to read. The research we did with other Bible societies is that people are still nostalgic about the Bible. There is always a demand for Christian literature,” said Rust.