By Memory Ncube
“EGODINI will never be the same again. It is hard to believe that after all these years we are definitely leaving this place.
“I wish I could go to the Bulawayo City Council and make them change their decision but then this thing (transformation of Egodini into a shopping mall) is going to benefit Bulawayo as a whole,” said Themba Dlamini, one of the longest serving vendors at Egodini terminus in Bulawayo.
BCC will relocate vendors to other places to pave way for the construction of a state-of-the-art regional transport hub and shopping mall.
“Vendors will be moved from the site during construction to new designated sites. After the completion of the mall, we will have areas allocated for vending,” said the BCC senior public relations officer, Nesisa Mpofu adding that vendors are yet to be re-allocated new places.
Basch Street Terminus popularly known as Egodini was established in 1984 as a bus terminus for Zimbabwe United Passenger Company (ZUPCO).
However, it will soon receive a face lift through a two-year project, which was awarded to a South African-based company.
BCC tendered the project in 2012 and Terracotta, a South Africa-based company – won the bid to develop the site and will wholly fund the project.
But, for 62-year-old Dlamini and many other vendors, the wait is painful.
“Egodini has been my workplace. Some people wake up in the morning to go to their offices and for me Egodini has been my office for the past 16 years,” said Dlamini.
He said it is where he could interact with people of the same class.
Looking around for his friends, he said “It’s surprising that I came here with nothing but the money I made here has turned me into something,” said Dlamini, a proud father of four and three grandchildren.”
He said he makes about $400 a month, more than what some workers in formal employment earn.
With his rich pickings from vending at Egodini, Dlamini has not only managed to feed his family but to send his eldest son to Hillside Teachers’ College and buy a housing stand at Cowdray Park.
His business has grown as he bought a stand at the Unity Village flea market and hired someone to man the stand.
“Selling here has given me life when I thought I will never transform from being poor to being an ordinary person,” he said with a smile on his face.
Dlamini was forced to drop out of school at Grade Seven when he lost his parents and his grandmother could not afford to send him to school.
Without education, he ventured into vending, selling vegetables by the gate of his grandmothers’ home.
In search of greener pastures, he moved to the city centre where he found himself in a cat and mouse situation with Municipal Police for vending without a licence.
Lady luck smiled on him in 2000 when he got his vending licence to sell at Egodini.
While Bulawayo residents are happy with the multimillion dollar project that will see Egodini transformed into a state-of -the-art shopping mall, Dlamini and hundreds of other vendors wish the project could wait a bit longer for them to come into terms with it.
“I had many customers here and they liked my fruits and vegetables because I am a smart man but now I wonder if the customers will follow me to where we will be relocated but I pray that they will because I need their support,” said Dlamini, who was smartly dressed in a blue work suit and a grey straw hat.
“When we heard the news we thought it will be up to 10 years before the project starts but now we are realising that sooner than later we are going to be removed here to God knows where,” he said looking around as if pondering where they will go.
Dlamini recalled the days when things were tough and his earnings from Egodini saw him pull through.
“There came a time when I suffered from tuberculosis (TB) and the money that my wife got here helped with my hospital bills. I don’t know if I could have survived without doing my business here,” he said looking down, wondering what the future outside Egodini will be like.
However, it was not always rosy at Egodini.
He recalled the violence and insults, which are the order of the day at Egodini.
Also the dollarisation era in 2008 was a difficult time for vendors as they sold their staff only to find out the next day that the money had lost its value.
There was also the Murambatsvina clean-up exercise that affected vendors who were chased away from their places and they went back to selling in the streets where they met Municipal Police Officers who chased and arrested them on a daily basis. From the little earnings, they were made to pay fines.
Dlamini is one of the lucky vendors to have witnessed Egodini transform over the years.
He recalls when the former ZUPCO bus terminus was invaded by long distance buses such as Sipho Sami Bus Services, who commuters called “chicken makhaya”.
Interestingly, passengers would jostle to travel with “chicken makhaya” because they were cheaper than other forms of public transport.
“The chicken makhaya buses were later replaced by the Chinese Marcopolo buses, but they soon disappeared,” he said while laughing before adding that the Marcopolo buses had a tendency of stopping in dusty roads before announcing that there was “no road”.
Dlamini said he will always remember Egodini because it was like his second home but urged his customers to follow him to where they will be relocated and continue supporting his business.