When I arrive at his stall, Zingisa Perseverance Mngculu is chatting to his friend. It’s a quiet Tuesday afternoon and, as time passes, customers arrive one-by-one to purchase fruit and vegetables.
Today he had set up later than his normal time. The schoolchildren, who are some of his main patrons, have already gone home. But that does not mean his workday is over.
Raised in the Eastern Cape, he moved to Cape Town to look for greener pastures. When the company he was working for closed in 2005, Mngculu started looking for ways to support his family.
Selling fresh produce was the easiest thing to do until he found another job. But once he realised that his new job paid less than selling fruit and vegetables, he decided to focus all his energy on the latter.
His humble stall is located right in front of his house, which conveniently neighbours a high school. Some of his merchandise is packed on the back of his pick-up truck, while the rest is displayed on steel racks.
Mngculu wakes up at four every morning to prepare for his busy day. Other local vendors do not have cars and Mngculu helps them transport their goods for a small fee.
“I wake up and pick up the other street vendors like me, so that we can buy our merchandise, and then I drop them off at their houses again,” says Mngculu.
The 56-year-old sets up his stall when he comes back in the afternoon, just before the schools are out. This is when his family, especially his children, help out.
“My children help me set up, because it’s very hard to do it alone. They help me count the money and control the queue, especially when I’m serving school kids. They also help with the cashing up at the end of the day,” he says.
Dealing with pupils is one of the many challenges that Mngculu faces. He says the children try to trick him sometimes and steal his stock because they think he’s old and will not notice.
“Sundays are always the busiest because people want to cook their hearty Sunday meals,” says Mgculu.
He says there are always people who try to bargain with him, threatening to buy from other traders if he does not concede. Mngculu says the new shopping centre hasn’t done much to help him lift his profit.
With age setting in, the father of four says he easily gets tired and finds himself going home earlier than he had planned, especially in winter when the sun sets earlier.
However, Mngculu is not about to retire anytime soon as he needs the money to pay for his children’s fees and his debts. He’s been running the business for 15 years and it’s still going strong.