Our vendors: Bernard Selabe (Homeless Talk, Johannesburg, South Africa)

By Madoda Mkhobeni, Homeless Talk

Near the shopping complex at the corner of William Nicol and Republic Roads in the north of Johannesburg, Bernard Selabe sells Homeless Talk.

He joined the family of Homeless Talk vendors early this year and he sells the newspaper in the suburb of Parkmore. Bernard was advised by a social worker to try selling the paper. Before he started to sell Homeless Talk he was always begging at the same traffic lights where he sells the paper today. That’s where the social worker used to see him when driving by.

Under this tree is where Bernard Selebe and Kagiso sleep. PHOTO: Madoda Mkhobeni

“At home where I come from in Wolmaransstad [a maize-farming town between Johannesburg and Kimberley in North West Province of South Africa], I left my mother Lydia Selabe and my father William Borake. The reason for leaving them is that I decided to come to Joburg to find work,” says Bernard.

“However, getting a job was not easy, let alone finding accommodation, so I ended up living the bushes. Back home, we were working in the farms and the payment was very little. We earned R30 [about £1.60/ €1.90/ $2.10 USD] per day and we were not registered. That is why I decided to come to the big city.”

Bernard lives in the bushes with his brother Kagiso Leonard Selabe and a friend Tshiamo Keikabile, near the Jukskei River bank, not far from where he sells the paper. They have built themselves a small cardboard house under a tree.

When preparing food and relaxing, they go the bank of the river and make fire. They sit there on a sofa that they have found for themselves.

One of the security officers that works at the shopping complex always help Bernard to charge his cell phone. The security guard also keeps his papers for Bernard to read when he finishes selling Homeless Talk each day.

“Ever since I started selling the newspaper, life is no longer the same like the way it used to be when I started to stand here at the street lights. Some people have donated clothes for me and I get more support for my newspaper sales,” says Bernard.

“But now that I am staying in the bushes, some of my belongings are not safe. The Metro Police came the  other day and raided our dwelling place, including that of other homeless people who live in the same area nearby. The police threatened to burn our belongings.”

For all the life challenges that Bernard is experiencing each and every day, he is still willing to fight for a better life. But at present he needs a shelter to protect himself and his two brothers from the rain and cold.

“Whatever I earn from selling the paper can be safe, if I can have a safe and better place to stay.” concludes Bernard.

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