The Sunday Mail
FOR 20 uninterrupted years, Evelyn Majonga has been calling the ever busy, traffic-controlled intersection of Rotten Row and Samora Machel Avenue in Harare, her office.
A newspaper vendor, Majonga is a lively, likeable and easily recognisable character who often engages in conversation with passing commuters and drivers.
Since 1999, she has been selling newspapers from the said intersection. In fact, she has almost become a permanent part of the goings-on in the area.
While newspaper vendors have always been referred to as “newsboys”, we now have “newsgirls” after some ladies joined the trade.
For the better part of her adulthood, Majonga has spent most of her time criss-crossing the often heavily-congested and dangerous intersection. She even works during weekends and public holidays.
And the toiling is paying off for her.
Besides feeding her family and sending her now grown-up children to school, Majonga also bought a residential stand in Chitungwiza’s Manyame Park and built a modest house on it.
This reporter got to know about Majonga after a commuter remarked about her in a minibus (kombi) that was travelling to Kuwadzana.
“You see that woman? the commuter asked as the kombi whizzed past the intersection.
“I was inspired by her determination and work ethic. When I was still studying, which is about 15 years ago, I used to pass through this intersection on my way to and from college. That woman is always at this point, even when the weather is hostile,” remarked the commuter.
Two other commuters in the kombi chipped in, confirming that she is indeed a hard worker. The following day, this reporter temporarily set base at the intersection and observed Majonga go through her 20-year old routine.
Selling her newspapers whilst straddling the lane markings, it appears Majonga has mastered the art of walking back and forth without interfering with the flow of traffic.
A number of newspapers were precariously held on her chest, shoulder and arms, as she made sure that the headlines were clearly visible to her clients. She has also mastered the practice of manoeuvring between the vehicles during the morning rush hour with ease, an act that can be dangerous.
Her ability to back-pedal without disturbing the flow of traffic is bemusing.
Always alert, Majonga easily darts from one lane to the other, as she jovially serves her customers. Amid the noise of the squealing brakes, the blowing horns and the occasional nasty comments from rude commuters, Majonga remains resolute in providing a friendly service.
On more than one occasion as The Sunday Mail Society watched, Majonga had to sprint to the other side of the road, where an impatient customer was gesturing her to hurry up.
Indeed, her errands are not only energy-sapping, they are also dangerous.
“Obviously, this is dangerous work. I risk being run over. One has to be extra cautious. I often encounter dangerous and rude drivers who sometimes drive straight at me. Some hurl nasty comments whilst others make sexually demeaning comments,” Majonga said.
But she said the near brushes with death and the rude comments are “work-related hazards.”
“Most people despise vending. But from the interactions that I have with my customers, I now have important contacts. I was briefly employed at a local hotel and the person who recommended me for the job was my customer.”
She also said she has learnt a lot of important lessons while selling newspapers.
“I have learnt how to deal with different characters, as well as being punctual. I have to be at work on time, otherwise I end up losing customers. Some people behave as if they are programmed, they pass through this place at almost the same time every day,” she explained.
Majonga, who chose to keep her age to herself, says she is not yet entertaining any thoughts of leaving her favourite hunting ground.
“I will work until my legs can no longer carry me. This is my only source of livelihood,” she said.
According to online sources, in the early days of newspaper production, newspaper vendors were often seen as victims of poverty and delinquents in the making.
In 1875, an unnamed popular writer portrayed them as a nuisance:
“There are 10 000 children living on the streets of New York…The newsboys constitute an important division of this army of homeless children. You see them everywhere… They rend the air and deafen you with their shrill cries. They surround you on the sidewalk and almost force you to buy their papers. They are ragged and dirty. Some have no coats, no shoes, and no hat.”
But basing on how Majonga conducts her business and what she has achieved from the trade, it is evidently clear that she is a different type of “newsboy.”
Warren Buffet, the third richest man in the world, is among some of the world’s famous people who were newsboys.
He now has an estimated net worth of US$91,5 billion.
The late Astronaut Alan Bean was also a newsboy. Bean was the fourth person to walk on the moon in 1969.
The late civil rights activist, Martin Luther King Jnr and Joe Bidden, the United States’ 47th Vice President, at one time used to run newspaper errands.