‘Moving so far away was daunting. But deep down, I knew I had to make the move’
CONTINUED FROM PAGE 6 ZIMBABWEAN Mariya Kaji, who arrived in Pietermaritzburg in 2017, said the biggest challenge for her was that her four children were languishing at home unable to find a school.
Her eyes fill with tears when she talks about her pain at seeing her children idle at home while schooling was in full swing. “These are the future leaders but now they are roaming around at home because we can’t send them to school as we don’t have a permanent place to stay. We are always moving from one place to the next,” she said.
Making ends meet is proving difficult for Kaji. “Sometimes we go to bed with empty stomachs. We are used to it now,” she said, managing to laugh. Kaji runs a clothes-selling business. Rajab Angry (29) from Malawi, a street vendor on Pietermaritz Street, arrived in Pietermaritzburg in December 2016.
Angry said relocating to a new country was daunting. “Such was my paranoia about crime that, during the first months in South Africa, I would be suspicious of any person staring at me for longer than I thought was necessary. I was seeing ‘robber’ on their faces,” he said laughing.
Angry said his first major hurdle, which still remains to this day, although not as much as before, was language.
“Other than my French, I had a working understanding of isiZulu, mainly because there were Zulu people who worked in my village that I was used to listening to back in Malawi. Not that I spoke it well, but I can understand what you are talking about.
“It was a test of endurance for me and, I would imagine, for the other black South Africans I have interacted with in the past two years. You face it daily — at your local shopping centre, at the petrol station and at work,” he said.
In a stutter of broken English, Alex Kisubi recalls how he arrived in Pietermaritzburg in 2013 from the DRC.
“I never imagined coming here, to be honest,” says Kisubi. “It was more out of desperation. I never wanted to be separated from my family.”
His family’s financial struggles and the lack of prospects in DRC forced the 29-year-old to consider moving to South Africa to earn a decent income.
“My brother moved to South Africa a few years ago. We used to speak regularly over the phone. Each time I spoke to him, he tried convincing me to come to South Africa.”
His brother worked for a barber shop in Joburg and offered him a job and a place to stay if he was able to make the long journey from DRC to Joburg.
“Moving so far away was daunting. But deep down, I knew I had to make the move.”
Kisubi was taught how to cut hair when he was a boy, and so the idea of working at a barber shop wasn’t completely terrifying.
“I had to learn about the different hairstyles that South Africans like. I also needed to learn English, which really was and still is the most challenging aspect of coming to South Africa.”
Five years after his arrival, Kisubi is a fully established barber in Pietermaritzburg. He may battle with his English, but he’s built an impressive list of his own clients. “When I battle to communicate with certain customers, they point out which hairstyle they would like [from catalogues]. It makes my life so much easier,” he said.
Kisubi says he loves South Africa and enjoys his work.
“Looking back at the last five years, I think I made a good decision to come here. I’ve been saving money and sending it home, which has been helpful.
“The country is wonderful, and the people are really nice here. I do feel at home these days,” he said giggling. • [email protected]dia24.com