4 April 2016

A Shaken Street in Soweto

Last week South Africa hosted its annual ProudlySA Buy Local Summit and Expo, in Johannesburg, the country's economic capital city. The highly publicized summit aims to encourage local trade and employment across industries in the country. South Africa's deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa, when speaking at the summit urged South Africans to consciously buy goods produced in South Africa saying "When you buy local, the money you use stays in the community and in the local area." Ramaphosa further mentioned that South Africans are yet to recognize the "long-term benefits of buying local goods."
Whilst attending Thandi's funeral (refer to previous post) I became aware of the impact of a single local business on a struggling community.

Miriam's home was over-crowded with mourners who toppled out of the garden, passed the wide-open gate commemorating and celebrating a short-lived life. The over-crowded drive-way was spotted with faces well known to me.Townships often boast a closely-knit community, and Zola is no exception. Anyone and everyone who had briefly connected with Thandi were present and accounted for on that afternoon. This included many people who had met Thandi over the 17 years of her working career. As the street began to fill, so did the number of familiar faces. In a corner of the garden, to my right I recognized the always smiling Phumi- the company's cleaning lady who had left the business some time ago due to a heart condition which rendered her unable to continue working. Slowly shuffling through the crowd I was suddenly met with a long,warm and nostalgic embrace from behind. It was Mavis this time. A middle-aged, well-rounded lady who is a leading role in the fragments of memory which remain from my visits to my parent's workplace as a little girl. She too had left over five years ago after working for the company for well over a decade.

In one street, in Zola, Soweto, I was able to witness the impact which a local family business had on a community. My family and I were received in a never-before-visited close-knit community with warmth resembling the heat which escapes from fire-places in the cold of a winter's night. I was in awe at the impact which my family's small manufacturing business had on a single community in the heart of Soweto. I realized the full impact of the opportunities which this small business offered these inviting,eager and appreciative people-despite, their amicable...or inharmonious departure from the business. Present at the funeral were past, present and future individuals who would be impacted by this family business and similarly have an impact on it.

These familiar faces (due to the nature of the business) have saved countless lives and contributed to the operation of a company which has been manufacturing for over 30 years, which has accordingly provided jobs to hundreds of South Africans. The business, in return, has given Phumi an opportunity to correct her heart condition, whilst providing others the opportunity to expand on their confining, pre-apartheid given homes.

Imagine if the purchasing of local goods surpassed the amount which our country imports. If we were to support the bid to buy locally, we could consequently promote more localized enterprises. We could multiply the impact which this one family business has had  on a single street in a small township by several thousand times. If only this could be multiplied to scores of streets,suburbs and towns across the country. That would be one very powerful nation.

Till next time-


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