From child soldier to one-armed stitch-master

2017-01-28 20:11
FILE: Moussa, aged 17, having served 4 years in various armed groups before joining the Seleka rebels, sits in the Italian NGO Coopi reception centre for child soldiers in Bangui. (Xavier Bourgois, AFP)

FILE: Moussa, aged 17, having served 4 years in various armed groups before joining the Seleka rebels, sits in the Italian NGO Coopi reception centre for child soldiers in Bangui. (Xavier Bourgois, AFP)

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Acornhoek - A former child soldier who lost an arm at the age of 15 while fighting in Mozambique’s civil war, has sewed his way to a better income and now dreams of creating more jobs for the unemployed.

Carlos Nyabanga, 47, who lives in a village outside Acornhoek, Mpumalanga, makes and sells clothes and uniforms for schools and churches and repairs sewing machines. 

“I lost my parents, my arm and my childhood during the war, but I didn’t give up on life. I told myself that I still had one arm and two legs,” he says.

When the 16-year civil war ended in 1992, Nyabanga was one of the 25 498 officially demobilised soldiers who were younger than 18 when recruited. 

Manual sewing machine

He came to South Africa in 1993. Six years later, he was given citizenship.

“I worked on the farms for many years, but was not happy with the meagre wages and the lack of job security. I quit the job because I yearned for a better life,” he says.

He used his savings to buy a manual sewing machine and painstakingly taught himself to sew, using his right foot to spin the device.

Today, the married father of four, who works from a rented apartment, uses an electric sewing machine and makes around R10 000 a month.

“I am happy with my life. I have a roof over my head and I am able to buy food for my children.”

Nyabanga’s dream is to register a formal business and create jobs for unemployed people.


Read more on:    polokwane

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