‘Boutique’ her livelihood

2015-07-15 06:00
SWEETNESS MKHAFU, who trades second-hand material such as clothes, shoes and curtains to make a living, sorts out some of her items.
Photo: Teboho Setena

SWEETNESS MKHAFU, who trades second-hand material such as clothes, shoes and curtains to make a living, sorts out some of her items. Photo: Teboho Setena

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SELLING second-hand items on the street corners of Welkom’s township of Thabong has offered more than just survival for Sweetness Mkhafu. The single mother of eight children has also managed to raise her offspring and provide for some to study further at tertiary institutions.

The 62-year-old Mkhafu sells second-hands items such as clothes, shoes and household ware, including curtains.

The streetwise woman has been in the trade since 1989, selling these bargains that the locals refer to as a “Look Down Boutique”. The name is derived from the fact that you search for bargains among the loads of bundles displayed on the floor instead of on shelves. Prices range from R25 to R400.

Mkhafu said she ventured into selling second-hand goods after being retrenched at a supermarket in Johannesburg in 1989. “The business shut down because the owners were against workers joining trade unions. I then joined another group of women who were already in the business selling from street corners around the greater Johannesburg. I have never looked back because it was profitable,” said Mkhafu.

She takes pride in her informal business which has seen her educate her children, some even at university level. Two of Mkhafu’s children, Msobomvu and Ntyatyambo, are studying at university. Msobomvu studies teaching at the Central University of Technology, Free State, Welkom Campus, while Ntyatyambo is a third-year student in Social Science, majoring in Psychology at the University of Fort Hare in the Eastern Cape.

One of Mkhafu’s sons is the promising rugby player Khwezi who plays for the Griffons.

Mkhafu has endured not only extreme weather conditions to ensure the survival of her family, but also risked her life.

“I survived at least two horrific accidents which left me with several internal injuries.

“However, God has been with me throughout the journey and I’m grateful for that. I raised all my children and they now live their lives and are taking care of themselves,” said Mkhafu.

Mkhafu travels to Cape Town almost twice a month where she gets these bargains. She said it cost her about R1 400 for a return trip. Mkhafu also trades pottery ornaments which she purchases in Johannesburg.

Mkhafu says business has been slow the last number of years. “Business has not been as good in the past years like when the mines and other firms were operational. I now return home with loads of items, unlike before when I sold everything within a week,” said Mkhafu

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