BBL PARTICIPANT: Angeline Mujika, Majakeng, Northwest
In a Nutshell
Through her participation in SocioTech’s BBL MyFuture course, Angeline Mujika from Majakaneng has gained confidence and learnt to manage her time and money.
She is making a positive difference in her community, gaining life skills and building social capital.
My name is Angelina Mujika but most people call me Mamazala and everyone in Majakaneng knows my shisa nyama as Mamazala’s. If you translate it literally, Mamazala means mother-in-law but, in my case, everyone calls me that. Even people with no family relationship to me. I suppose it is just a way of being respectful. I originally come from Manicaland in the east of Zimbabwe but my husband and I arrived in South Africa just before the World Cup soccer in 2010 and I have been here ever since. In those early days, my husband had a job as a truck driver in Rustenburg, I was a housewife looking after my children at home and things were pretty good. Then, in 2012, my husband had a terrible car crash. We had been home to Zimbabwe for a visit and he was travelling back with three of our children in the car. My husband and my two girls (my first born and my last born) died. Only my son survived. I was devastated.
One of the last decisions we made as a couple before my husband passed away was that I should study to be an auxiliary social worker. The course was in Johannesburg and we had already paid for it so, even though I was in mourning, I just had to get up and go study. I cried while I studied. It was a terrible time. We had thought that doing such a course would open doors to employment in South Africa but it turned out that this was not the case. Most social workers are employed by government and as a foreign national it is almost impossible to find a job.
So, there I was a widow with four kids. My son who survived the crash was only 6 years old. I tried so hard to find work as an auxiliary social worker but it was not to be. I am still really sad about that because I love working with the community and I want to make a difference in troubled lives. I still do as much as I can to help on a voluntary basis (at Christmas this year I took food parcels to the nyaope boys who hang around on the street corners) but my family must eat and to do that I need to earn money. That is why I started the shisa nyama.
Even before I met Charles from SocioTech, I was cooking pap and chicken and cabbage to sell by the side of the road. In those days, I worked out of a corrugated iron shack-like structure and business was not very good. Even when I sold food I never seemed to have any money. I was working hard but the results were not showing up. My problem was that I didn’t understand how money works.
My first contact with SocioTech came through Anna (Kgaretswe) – I didn’t know her but I was walking past her house one day and I noticed how beautiful her vegetables were. I could see that she was making a success of selling so I asked her how she got into the food gardening business. She told me about SocioTech and suggested that I come along to a BBL MyFood gardening training. I did that training programme and I started my garden – I still have that garden but (thanks to business growth with the shisa nyama) I hardly have any time for it. After doing the MyFood training with Jabu, Charles asked me if I wanted to attend the BBL MyFuture training.
When I did the BBL MyFuture training, I immediately saw that I was making so many mistakes. In the past, if someone was selling something, I would buy it because I felt sorry for them and I wanted to support them. Now, if it is not in my budget, I don’t buy. I know that it is okay to say ‘it is not in my budget’. I used to spend what I earned and did not know why money came in but I never managed to keep any of it. I was always having to borrow from other people if I needed to restock my shisa nyama. It is never a good idea to borrow from people you know. It creates a bad atmosphere. Borrowing creates tension and fighting because the person you borrowed from wants their money back and then you get offended that they think you won’t pay – which is unreasonable, because of course they want their money. Now, every day I put something aside so that when I want to do a big shop I have funds in reserve.
These days, things are going well and I can see that things are getting a little bit better each and every day.
I have made a brick structure with tables and chairs and pretty table cloths for customers to sit down and eat. I have 2 employees to help me. My older daughters are grown up and have decent jobs. I have the money to pay transport costs to send my son to a good school in Brits and when he gets to that school he has a positive attitude.
The wonderful thing about SocioTech is that they see the whole person. They see your business but they also see your family and they see the way those two parts of your life fit together. I have learnt so much about how to handle my son. Until recently that boy was a big worry to me. This boy gave me troubles. I didn’t know how to handle him because before I had only ever been a mother to girls. You say things once to girls and they listen. You tell girls to do their homework and help around the house and they do it. Not boys. My son would come home from school, drop his books and go out to play in the street. I thought that if I beat my boy, I could beat an understanding into him but that made things worse. He wasn’t doing his school work. He was getting into trouble at school. The teachers would phone me and threaten to expel him. Through doing the BBL MyFuture training I learnt ways to talk to my son that completely changed our relationship.
When I sat down and talked to my son he told me: “Mama you don’t have time for me. You are always busy. You never check my school books or ask me how I feel about things. You never tell me that you love me.” I was heartbroken because I was working so hard and it was all for my children. I don’t come from a culture that talks about love but I thought that my son understood that I was showing love through my hard work. In those conversations it became clear to me that he didn’t understand those things. I realized that he was right when he said that I only ever pointed out his mistakes and that I didn’t acknowledge when he did something well. I realized that, even though I was busy, I had to make time for this child.
By the time we had this conversation it was already quite late in the year. He told me that he was very far behind with his school work and that he was worried that he wouldn’t pass – he was right to be worried. He was in grade 8 and he had failed terms 1,2 and 3. So, there we were in term 4 with a big problem. I arranged for him to have some extra lessons and he really put his whole heart and soul into catching up. I was really impressed with his commitment. And you know what? That boy is a miracle boy because he managed to pass term 4 so well that he passed the year! I didn’t even think that it was possible to come back from failing 1, 2 and 3 but he did it. I am so proud of him. And so grateful to Charles for those inspiring conversations. They helped me and my son to find each other again.
That was last year and now when he gets home from school he takes his books and studies. He has been made a class captain. He helps around the house. When I think of how I nearly lost him to the streets and what could have happened if I hadn’t caught him in time, it makes me shiver. These days we sit together and we talk and then we make decisions together. Everything is healthier now. Even our diet is healthier thanks to the BBL MyFood and MyFuture training. Because of the training I know that what children eat impacts on their studies. I know that we need to eat all the colours. My son loves meat and I used to give it to him even when I couldn’t afford it, but now I know that beans are protein and they are cheaper and healthier than eating meat every day.
My son is back on track and my business is also coming right. I used to have only a few customers and use small pots. Now I have many more customers and I have graduated to bigger pots to keep up with the demand. My menu has little special twists that not everyone does. It’s not just pap and chicken. I give customers cabbage which everyone does, but I also do lovely peppery leafy vegetables like rape and every day I make a rich, tasty tomato and onion gravy. All that with ¼ chicken is R35, ½ is R50 and a full chicken is R100.
I have worked really hard to make a nice environment for my customers. I used some of my savings to build a permanent brick structure and got rid of the corrugated iron shack. Inside I have tables with table cloths and bowls for hand washing. If I want customers with cash, who come in nice cars, I need to have a space that they find acceptable. Those sorts of people don’t want to eat in a shack. A better structure means better customers so it is worth the investment. People don’t just come to eat. They come to feel comfortable. They come to listen to nice music. It is all the little details that make the difference.
Of course, life is not perfect. Of course, I still have problems, but everything feels so much better than it did before. I feel more in control of my business and my family. Once you have that sense of control and understanding, the difficulties of the world feel a little easier.