Street sellers defy mounting odds
Come rain or shine, every day these hard-working souls can be found crisscrossing through the streets of Francistown, traversing Ghetto’s busy roads in the never-ending hunt for customers.
The job of a newsvendor has never been easy, requiring patience, strong arms (bundled up together those papers are heavy!), and legs of steel.
In recent years, however, their job has become even more difficult with their product’s popularity dropping dramatically as the digital revolution gathers momentum.
Amid falling newspaper sales, Covid-19 and an economy yet to recover from the closure of Tati Nickel Mine, the second city’s news vendors remain a common sight in F/town.
Making ends meet as they tirelessly ply their trade at the forefront of the print industry, living in hope that one day the trade will return to former glories, here are their stories……
I have been selling newspapers on the streets since 1998.
I was inspired by the late Rauwe Mawaba, who was also selling back then.
He encouraged me to do the same business as him.
I’m so glad I did as 23 years later I’m still going strong.
We were making a lot of money back then because there was no social media for people to get their news.
People were forced to buy newspapers to find out exactly what is going on in the country.
Our business targets government employees, house-to-house selling, and on the streets.
It needs someone who is eager to work because it requires a lot of walking, usually in the hot sun.
These years the papers are not selling like before and that is primarily because of online, although Covid-19 has also had an impact.
We are struggling a lot; The Voice and The Weekend Post are the few papers I can say are still doing reasonably well on the streets.
Newspapers in the ’90s were selling like fat cakes unlike now where we move around town struggling to sell.
In the past, there were no social media, which people now use as a way not to buy the paper.
Also, since the closure of the mines, Francistown’s economy is not the same.
People here don’t have money!
The paper that I think is still selling vastly is The Voice Newspaper.
When it is Thursday and the paper arrives, I know that after taking a few rounds of the town it will finish.
Although other papers take time to sell out, it is still better than staying at home because no one else can give the little profit that we make.
I am an electrician by trade so when I don’t have tenders I come to town and sell newspapers.
I am very new to this industry.
I was working as a labourer for various contactors but the job finished last year December.
It was tough on my side so I met with Ottie who asked me to come to sell newspapers.
I started selling in January to keep myself busy and make money to buy the things I need.
It is hard on the streets, the papers are difficult to sell.
People will tell you they are reading the news online.
The online thing is killing us.
People should know for us to eat is when they buy papers.
I have been a news-vendor since 2010 and I sustain myself through that.
I have realized that the papers are no longer selling like they were when I started.
I think it’s because the news written in the past is not like the ones written today.
Maybe the journalists can adapt the style that was used in the past to regain long-lost readers.