‘Put a bit of colour’

Mail & Guardian - - News -

A spot­ted pink suit­case with a hair­line crack makes its way by bus from Rand­burg to Beit­bridge, and then through Zim­babwe to Mozam­bique. From there, it takes a wind­ing route to Malawi. It is strapped on top of the bus, and some­times it sits in the boot. For four days the suit­case’s con­tents bounce. The blan­kets and slip­pers cush­ion the tinned food, the money for pri­vate school fees crin­kles. Un­til a small man un­packs the suit­case in his home of Mzuzu.

The man is Alan Ng­wira, who has spent the past year, one of 10, work­ing in Jo­han­nes­burg. It is his first day off, his first hol­i­day in a year. He will spend it with his wife and two chil­dren.

“They are grow­ing,” Ng­wira says of his chil­dren. “You can imag­ine, if you are not there … then you just see them. They are grow­ing fast like trees.”

Ng­wira knows a lot about trees. He was born into a farm­ing fam­ily be­fore train­ing as an elec­tri­cian. But the short­age of jobs in Malawi led him to South Africa to find work to give his fam­ily a bet­ter life.

Out of the seven days in the week, he tries to work on all of them. Each day, af­ter de­liv­er­ing the morn­ing pa­pers, he will cut, trim, wa­ter and sweep gar­dens in the sub­urb of Blair­gowrie.

He doesn’t limit him­self to mere gar­den main­te­nance though. “When I look around, then I see, I just see if in this area I can put a lit­tle bit of that colour, then maybe it can look beau­ti­ful,” says Ng­wira, who finds new homes for plant cut­tings among his clients’ gar­dens.

Ng­wira no longer uses the pink suit­case. He has given it to his daugh­ter, who is start­ing stan­dard eight at a pri­vate school in Malawi.

Photo: Del­wyn Verasamy

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