Interview by Xolani Magwaza with Beauty Mbambo on the 17th of January 2013.
Beauty’s aunt started her shop working as a vendor. She had a wooden box rickshaw kind of a shop, she used to tie it on a tree next to the road where she was selling her products. She started saving, until she was able to build a brick shop. The reason why she built a shop was due to lack shops and roads at eMatikwe. People had no supply of food and basic food like bread, milk and bread. People also wanted to buy food in large quantities as it was not easy to go to town due to lack of transportation and unemployment being rife. Therefore the shop was ideal for the community of eMatikwe as they were able to get food that they want conveniently.
They were also sewing. She and her sister were members of the Nazareth Baptist Church. They therefore, started a business of sewing the Shembe (uniforms) “umnazaretha” as it known amongst the church.
As a woman, in the era where democracy was still a dream in the country and patriarchy being the order of the day. Living in an impoverished village of Inanda, lately turned into a township. The same township was declared by former president Thabo Mbeki as one of the most impoverished communities in South Africa before and after democracy. This resulted in president Mbeki calling for (I.N.K), a national programme which is still in operation today as a government strategy to help change and better the lives of the people of Inanda and surrounding communities such as Ntuzuma and KwaMashu.
Unfortunately, INK was not in operation during Ms. Mbambo’s life time. Ms. Mambo was a brave woman and lived as an inspiration to the females and the people of Inanda at large. At the time when she started her shop, there were no roads that connected her shop with suppliers. At that time Indians were suppliers as they had trucks (transport). This meant that Ms Mbambo’s shop was to be empty at times. Even her and family used to fetch stock at Inanda station (eMtshebheni) as it is known today. “This was tiring and a time consuming job, as we had to go back to forth fetching heavy loads of stuff (stock)”). “During the rainy days it was harder as her stock got destroyed by the rain, not easy to travel carrying heavy loads with your head”, said Beauty Mbambo.
Fortunately, because the Indian people living at Inanda also had businesses in the surrounding areas and in some part of Inanda. Indians still wanted to further their business operations at Inanda. Indians were the first people at/ of Inanda to provide transportation as they owned buses. A popular Indian bus at the time was called Romnanan. One Indian truck delivery man, who had hard time delivering stock to his African clients at Inanda because of no roads to deliver goods. He spoke with Ms Mbambo about an idea to open a new road which was going to be beneficial for both groups.
A meeting was held by the community. However not everyone was happy with an idea as some Africans were doubtful of allowing Indians to start businesses in their communities as they feared that Indians will take over. With more talks, then the majority agreed that the road should be opened. However there was an incident where one of the community members resisting even after when the majority had agreed and road had been opened. This woman ploughed sweet potatoes on the road saying that neither Indian trucks nor buses will enter the community. Fortunately the community was able to deal with her accordingly and the problem was solved.
Once the trucks started delivering stock directly to the shop owners, people like Ms. Mbambo were able to do their business well and focus on other important things. The shop became the port for the people of eMatikwe and the surrounding areas as far as uMzinyathi. Ms. Mbambo also sold food on credits for pensioners as she understood that they were not working. The shop still stands as one of Inanda old buildings or shops, different architecture, a heritage that helps tell the stories, the struggle and the development of eMatikwe and iNanda as a community.
Where is the shop now?
After Ms. Mbambo’s death the shop was taken over by Beauty Mbambo’s mother who is a female member of the family. Beauty Mbambo continued with the legacy of the Mbambo shop until the 2008/09 as crime worsened in the community. There were breaking ins and she feared for her life as she was living in the shop. She and family decided that it was better to rent the shop out at that moment. She also left her family house next to the shop. Now she resides a place which is a stone throw away from the shop.
Beauty remembers her aunt as strong woman who inspired her to venture for her dreams too. Beauty claims or believes that she is one of the first or amongst the first women of eMatikwe to get a driver’s license. She also started school bus transporting services where she drove African children to Indian schools, at that time and still stands as a sign of better education amongst the people of Inanda. Her business ventures inspired a lot of people and today it is dominated by males.
Therefore in conclusion, it is an honor to write about Ms. Mbambo (Mbambo family) as she represent the pride of eNanda’s unsung heroes and “Women in leadership”, a car women have been driving with no proper recognition.
This post is also available in: Zulu