But he is such a closed book

Namhla Tshisela

Namhla Tshisela

His name is Magazine but he is a closed book.

Magazine featured prominently during a Sowetan investigation into the influx of blind beggars into Johannesburg from Zimbabwe.

Supposedly an authority on blind beggars, Sowetan was advised he would be the appropriate person to speak to about the community of beggars.

Magazine is also blind.

However, we were soon to learn never to trust a book by its title.

He reluctantly agreed to speak to Sowetan.

He refused to divulge his full name, so we were stuck with just Magazine.

Magazine came to South Africa in 2004, leaving his wife and children behind, citing "political and economic problems" in Zimbabwe.

"The situation was so intense, not only for the disabled."

He found Johannesburg a "very good place" compared to his home town. That's why he settled. "There is quite a lot you can do here to better your life. Life is generally tough for the abled, what more for someone who is disabled and not working?"

Most of his responses were vague one-liners, confirming the secrecy we had been warned about before meeting Magazine.

On his age: "I'm in my 40s."

On how he came to Johannesburg: "I came alone."

On his family: "My children are between four and 21 years old."

Where he stayed, his cellphone number and where he worked were to remain secret.

"Our friendship has not gone that far," was his justification.

He also refused us permission to spend a day with him. He was wary of Sowetan "making money out of him".

Coming from Masvingo in south-east Zimbabwe, Magazine lost his sight after contracting measles in 1968.

His disability led him to beg on street corners.

"I earn between R30 and R50 a day. I also get food from well-wishers."

He admitted going home in May after his mother's death and missing his family. Alone in a foreign city, trusting others was a big problem, he said.

"You can't trust someone 100 percent," he said.

It is this lack of trust that has driven Magazine and his fellow blind countrymen to live secluded but communal lives. It has also made them wary of the media.

"You run a business, right? Your aim is to make money by using my story to sell your newspaper. What am I going to get?"

After trying to extort money from us, we closed the chapter on Magazine.