Hard work and little pay: Pushing heavily-laden trolleys while dodging traffic

2019-06-24 07:44
In the dark in winter, from as early as 04:00, men start pushing trolleys of goods from the storeroom to the various vendors’ stalls in the Cape Town city centre.

In the dark in winter, from as early as 04:00, men start pushing trolleys of goods from the storeroom to the various vendors’ stalls in the Cape Town city centre. (Ashraf Hendricks)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Just before 07:00 Malk Gabriel is wading through peak-hour traffic in the Cape Town city centre, pushing a heavily-laden trolley to an informal stall.

While making his way from a storeroom in Caledon Street to the Grand Parade, the trolley loses balance and Gabriel battles to keep it from veering into oncoming traffic. He eventually makes it to the Parade with some help from the stall owner, reports GoundUp.

Gabriel, 23, from Tanzania, has been in South Africa for seven years. He lives under a bridge in the city after relocating from Pretoria.

Finding a job as a homeless person is tough, he says.


Trolley pushers have to work hard and competition is high. (Ashraf Hendricks)

Sibongile Mpanbani, 26, pushes trolleys from the storeroom in Caledon Street for five stall owners. He gets paid anything from R10 to R30 per trolley. He can earn between R100 and R300 per day.

Between pushing trolleys in the morning and again in the evening, he helps carry people's groceries at Shoprite and luggage from the taxi rank to the long distance busses.

Mpanbani moved from the township to the streets of the city earlier this year to be closer to work prospects.


Moving a trolley from the storeroom to the shop location can take over an hour during peak traffic. (Ashraf Hendricks)

At the storeroom, trolley pushers wait for clients. Some take advantage of the morning rush and try to poach clients by getting to the trollies first. When Mpambani is challenged, stall owner Allan Kamau, from Kenya, tells the group: "I want him [Mpambami] to push, and I am only going to pay one person."

Kamau's stall is in Darling Street near Shoprite. Mpambami often helps to set it up and pack out the merchandise.

Mpambani moved out of his family home in Crossroads so as not to burden his widowed mother. His eldest sister is married and has her own stall at the Parade. He is the second youngest of five children and he dreams of starting his own business.


Store owner Allan Kamau pays the men who transport his goods by trolley according to how much he makes on the day. (Ashraf Hendricks)

Kamau says he pays his helpers according to how much he makes during the day. "I've just asked [Mpambani] to accept R10. Yesterday, I pushed the trolley myself because I made nothing the whole day. If it's a good day, I pay R30. He needs me and I need him," he said.


Competition is stiff between the men who push trolleys for vendors in the Cape Town city centre. (Ashraf Hendricks)


In Caledon Street, the room, filled with a variety of goods including books, cosmetics, crafts and clothes, is manned by one manager. He stands at the door as stall owners and trolley pushers collect their things.

The store manager says about 50 trolleys are packed in the room at night. "We just have to make sure the trolleys for those who come at 4am are in front and those who come later are at the back," he said.

Julius Dienang, a stall owner at Green Market Square, has been pushing his own trolley for five years. He says that pushing a trolley is not an easy job.


Trolleys are moved all over the city centre including Green Market Square, the Parade and Adderley Street. (Ashraf Hendricks)

KEEP UPDATED on the latest news by subscribing to our FREE newsletter.

- FOLLOW News24 on Twitter

Read more on:    cape town

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.