Selling soil to earn a living

Thabo Mathaba is seen next to the two-room shack he built for his family. He holds some of the products he sells to make a living.

He turns empty bottles he collects into beautiful designs, decorated with colourful soil collected from the dumping site in his neighbourhood.

He then sells the bottles-turned-into-vases to township residents who buy his merchandise to decorate their homes. Most of his sales come from Zonkizizwe and the adjacent township of Tokoza.

It is now eight years since 2010 when the mentally challenged Mathaba started his business venture of collecting different texture of soil from the dumpsite, turning them into beautiful designs.

One complete bottle design made by this intelligent young man is turned into “a good vase” members of the community are only please to buy to decorate their homes.

Speaking to Kathorus MAIL on Tuesday, August 7, Mathaba said he thanked God for his talent, and the willingness to want to earn a living for himself and his family, and not to depend on handouts.

“It was because of hunger that I decided to do something like this, using dumped soil to create a product with value. I did not even learn this from school. I just felt like I should try to do something productive that will help put food on the table for my family. I thank God because I do not steal to support my family,” said Mathaba.

Mathaba is a former student of Isiphosethu Special School, a school for children with special needs which is located in Vosloorus.

During his time as a student at Isiphosethu, the talented and creative Mathaba studied a course in farming.

He said he did not utilise his farming knowledge because of the unavailability of land in the township.

“I then opted to come out with option B, which is to collect dumped soil from the dumping site and turn it into good use. Through the very same soil that the people looked down upon, I am able to make a living and make myself happy,” said the hard-working Mathaba who lost his mother at the tender age of seven.

His aunt Nonhlanhla Mathaba believes some of the family members would have died of starvation if her nephew did not come up with this creative and profitable venture of turning ordinary bottles into products to decorate peoples home.

“Even though his mother died at a young age, he never caused us any trouble because he has always been thinking about doing something positive to support the family. Every morning he wakes up to sell these bottles. With the money he gets from selling, he buys himself clothes. He is a regular churchgoer. He also donates money to others to buy food,” said Nonhlanhla.

Nonhlanhla added: “There are 10 of us in the house – myself, our grandfather and his seven cousins. All of us used to live in a small one-bedroom RDP house, but because of his hard work, he managed to build us a two-room shack behind our main RDP house. He felt the need to do all of this is because he felt we could not survive on our 82-year-old grandfather’s pension grant.”

Explainig Mathaba’s condition, Nonhlanhla said it was not easy to send his intelligent nephew to a special school.

“From an early age, it was not easy for him to carry heavy objects. I suppose this was because of his health condition. The condition worsened to a point that he was unable to carry light objects. We decided to get help. A doctor who examined him discovered he could not cope to be in the mainstream school. He recommended Isiphosethu Special School for him.”

Mathaba said he would like to get more support from members of the community.

“If more people buy these bottles this would mean a good life for me and my family. I would like to appeal to the local businesses to order these bottles. I can make as many as possible if I get orders. I have all the time,” concludes Mathaba.

Mathaba sells big bottle or vase for R20. The small bottle goes for R10.

  AUTHOR
Aaron Damane

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