21 April 2017

Namibia: From Airtime Vendor to Bible Seller

Photo: The Namibian
Bible seller Keith Tawanda Harawa.

WHEN Zimbabwe's economy collapsed some years back, many of the country's citizens were left unemployed, and with very few economic opportunities.

Zimbabweans started leaving the country in search of better opportunities in other African countries. In the search of those foreign opportunities, they encountered difficult situations, the most common being to do petty jobs and selling petty things on the streets. This is not foreign to Namibia, as the country has seen a large number of Zimbabweans flooding into the country, with many selling various items on the streets.

In recent years, when one passes the pavement of the post office in town, one would spot a man selling things around there.

That person is a Zimbabwean national, 36-year-old Keith Tawanda Harawa, who arrived in the country as a human resources graduate 10 years ago.

Harawa sells Bibles in front of the post office in Windhoek's CBD.

He also sells other things such as Bible covers, wallets, and other spiritual books. Hand-made shoes are part of his fare.

On top of that, he also offers services like repairing damaged Bibles and books.

He told The Namibian in an interview this week that he came from the Victoria Falls area in Zimbabwe to Namibia at the age of 26.

When he arrived in the country, he knew no one here.

He used to sleep at a service station close to town for months, and is grateful that he now has a shack he rents in an informal area at Katutura. "I started selling airtime, sweets and small sacks in Zoo Park a few days after I arrived in the country" , he noted.

He later got a job at a local restaurant on a six-months contract as a bartender.

"After the contract ended, I started learning how to make beads and necklaces, and sold them. But that was not profitable ," he explained.

The Zimbabwean national said after that, he found a business opportunity that he has been engaged in for years now. He has been selling Bibles and other things in front of the post office in town for more than five years.

"The shoes I am selling, I am selling on commission", he said, adding that he gets them from a woman who makes the leather shoes.

While one may think that at age 36 one may never want to change a career but just succeed at what they are doing, Harawa has different plans.

"I am currently paying for my studies as a tour guide at a local hospitality academy, as I want to go that way," he said, showing our team his documents as a student at that academy.

"I already have a certificate in hospitality from back home," he said, adding that he is indeed a human resources diploma holder from a Zimbabwean university.

In trying to do more for his business, his shack at Eveline Street is a place where he sells Bibles too whenever he is at home.

He told The Namibian that he is a spiritual person, and goes to hospitals during his free time to visit the sick and pray for them.

While he is also looking into the direction of being a tour guide, he has other backup future plans.

"I want to have my own big ministry (church) one day," he added.

On family, Harawa said he does not have any children, and is not yet married.

"My parents passed away a long time ago. I have two siblings, who are both in South Africa and also trying to make a living," he said.

But Harawa is currently facing a problem. He is running out of Bibles in local languages, and they take a bit of time to arrive.

"Oshiwambo Bibles have been out of stock since last year," he said, adding that the Oshiwambo Bibles also come from China.

"Anyone who has broken Bibles should bring them so that I can fix them," he stated.

Harawa can be contacted on 081 449 4085.

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