It was an abnormally cold spring day in Braamfontein, Jo’burg. Not many stepped outside without layers of clothing. Outside a corner shop on De Korte Street stood Tshepo and Mpho, busy with their daily hustle of asking people for money. Few stopped. I was intrigued.
I wanted to find out more about these two young people, who I later found out were homeless. They ended up teaching me more about hustling than most people I have met. Here is a day in the life of these two hustlers.
Mpho is 20 years old. He was born in Sebokeng but grew up in Sasolburg, in the Free State. His family was poor, which made getting through school difficult. His father passed away in 2005 and his mother shortly after that. He managed to finish his matric. Soon after, his only sister got married and moved out, leaving him all alone. With no family left in Sasolburg, he decided to move to Jo’burg to find work.
In Jo’burg, he survived on the R150 a day he earned from working at a fish and chips shop. He lost the job, was soon evicted from the place he was staying at and he was soon on the street where he had no choice but to learn to hustle.
Tshepo grew up on the streets. All he knows is how to hustle. Abandoned at birth by his parents, he then lived in an orphanage where he was later adopted by foster parents. But when that didn’t work out, he started living on the streets. Tshepo forged his way through the rough Johannesburg streets and taught himself everything he knows. Like how to read, write, drive and even dance.
At 17, a police officer took him into his home but that arrangement did not work out for too long as, he says, he was not treated well by the rest of the family. He was later kicked out and made his way back onto the street.
The life of a hustler
On the morning we met Tshepo and Mpho explained that they had been forced to hustle on a quiet street because they had been chased from their usual car guarding spot.
After an hour of unsuccessfully begging people for money, we went to visit one of their friends across the street. From there we carried on, in search of a better spot.
The same security guards who had chased them away, offered them their old spot. Within the first hour of taking back their spot, they had made half of their usual daily income of R40.
With the help of a friend of theirs who lived in a building on the same street, they also found someone who wanted a car washed, which completed the daily goal of R40. At the end of the day, as they do everyday, they went to buy food to sustain themselves until the next day’s hustle.
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