Second-hand books give homeless people a happy ending

Booksellers Jae Jae Mdwe (L) and Richard Nzima (R).
Booksellers Jae Jae Mdwe (L) and Richard Nzima (R).
Image: Illa Thomson

Booksellers of Mzansi is a partnership between the Denis Hurley Centre and Micromega Publications. Second-hand books are given to homeless people in Durban, who then sell them to make a profit.

Richard Nzima is one of these booksellers. He moved from Mpumalanga to Durban after being offered a job but soon discovered that he had fallen victim to a scam.

“For three-and-a-half months, I was on the street. This is until I went to the Denis Hurley Centre, where social workers told me about some job opportunities. I was given some books to sell and on my first day, I made R450,” says Nzima.

Nzima saw an opportunity to earn a continuous income from selling books.

“It requires little money to start off and you see the results immediately. I approached shopping malls and now I have four malls where I can sell my books. I set myself a target of selling at least 10 to 20 books per day to earn a good income.”

Since he started selling books, Nzima has managed to get off the streets. He now has enough money to rent a room and to afford meals every day.

“Sleeping on the streets steals your dignity. This project has given me my self-esteem and confidence back.”

During levels 5 and 4 of the lockdown, when the sellers were unable to sell in their usual spots, the booksellers were given the chance to sell their books online, with the help of Anivesh Singh, who owns e-commerce site Made in Chatsworth.

“The sellers were able to continue earning an income through lockdown. Even though many of them are now able to go back to their normal places to sell books again, we are continuing to support them by listing their books online,” says Singh.

*If you know of a homeless person who you think could become a bookseller in the Durban area, contact the Denis Hurley Centre at 031 301 2240.

-This article was originally published in the GCIS Vuk'uzenzele.

X