The champions of survival

One of the first things I noticed while living in places like Mozambique and Malawi, were the businesses.  With very little employment available and virtually no pension scheme or ‘grants,’ no matter your age, you need to support yourself.

I think of Mozambique and the 20 year civil war they experienced. There was no-one to help. It was simple. Start a business or starve.

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“The obstacle is the path.” – Zenaphorism

It’s no wonder to me that Mozambicans, Zimbabweans and Malawians (and many from elsewhere in Africa) are flocking to South Africa. South Africa seems like the land of ‘milk and honey’ if you’re someone with absolutely nothing or someone fleeing political violence, living in constant fear. Unfortunately for many immigrants coming to ‘street-wise’ South Africa, the walk of life will often take a new ‘hard line’ – a country where they feel unwanted and vulnerable.

I think back to the young Mozambican girl who was top of her class and with a grandmother who did everything in her power to keep her in school, but had to drop out because she could not pay the ‘bribe’  (5 metical) to write her end of year exam.  In the minds of these young girls, how do you escape the relentless cycle of poverty?

“A people that values its privileges above its principles soon loses both.” – Dwight D. Eisenhower

With corruption oozing out of every visible crack, for many there are few choices. ‘Having dreams,’ is a notion reserved for people who are not walking the line of survival. Some get married young. Some fall into prostitution, some take the few belongings they have and make the dangerous trek down to South Africa in hope of some luck and a better future. And some scrape by with a small business, never knowing whether they will make enough money that day to feed themselves and their family, let alone send their children to school.

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But this is what I noticed: the will to make a living and to survive; to start a business, no matter how small. When you need to feed a family, you need to get creative or you need to do that physically exhausting job that no-one else does. I take my hat off to these people.

In Mozambique especially, you will see that surrounding most small mud or grass huts, is a cluster of papaya trees, or a coconut palm or a hedge of sugar cane, bananas or cassava. And always a mango tree! There will be a chicken or 2 running around, guinea pigs kept in a tyre and maybe a pig and a goat. It seems that because of the brutal guerrilla-style war that left over a million Mozambicans dead, they have learned how to survive without help. And though their businesses maybe small, to start with absolutely ‘nothing,’ I think, is the epitome of ‘success and survival.’

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“Success is dependent on effort.” -Sophocles