Bead and wire vendors’ plea for support

Jeremiah Vera, Peace Mashoko and Lucas Gwatidzo.

Bead and wire vendors outside Constantia Village are pleading with local customers to support them during the Covid-19 pandemic as their business has taken a huge blow.

The traders, who have been off the market for over two months due to lockdown restrictions, say they are desperate for support now that they are back so that they can provide for their families.

The artists usually rely on sales to tourists, but Covid-19 travel restrictions have seen their sales plunge.

The sellers are now pleading with locals to step into the breach and buy their Christmas decorations now to help them recover financially.

Weather-permitting, the artists are available daily outside Constantia Village, at the traffic lights on the corner of Spaanschemat River Road and Doordrift Road.

Jeremiah Vera has been in the business for 17 years now. It takes him three hours to complete a medium-sized Christmas tree ornament from wire.

Born in Zimbabwe, Mr Vera started learning the art form as a young boy.

“Everyone back home knows how to make these. We used to make wire cars and we’d chase each other with them, playing.”

He decided to be a full-time artist and street vendor after years of working as a
construction worker at PG Glass in Zimbabwe. He left the country in 2002 due to the unstable economy..

In his first three years in South Africa, he worked in Joburg and then Pretoria, selling wire animals, Christmas ornaments, flowers and other art pieces. He says he enjoys working independently and making pieces he loves.

He moved to Cape Town in 2005, after hearing business would be better in the tourist hub.

Living in Hout Bay, Mr Vera wakes up as early as 5am to catch commuters going to work in the morning. He then returns home after dark, when the final commuters have left.

He is in a very competitive industry – there are 20 bead and wire art sellers at Constantia Village. They have agreed though to work on rotation so there is not too much competition. But the work is very dependent on the weather.

“We make more money in summer than in winter, and now with the corona, it’s even worse.”

Mr Vera usually makes R1 500 a week from selling, but in the past two weeks, he has only made R700, and he can’t apply
for many relief efforts because he is not a South African citizen.

He supports his wife and two sons who stay with him in a one-bedroom backyard flat. He also has to send money home regularly to support his first-born daughter in
Zimbabwe.

“If it wasn’t for the feeding schemes that came into the location and gave us food I don’t know how we would have survived.”

During lockdown, he says, his family has lived off his post office savings account.

“As soon as we saw in the newspapers that we can come back and sell, we were here. But now there’s no customers.”

His biggest fear is not being able to pay his rent this month. Last month, his landlord let him pay half, but this month he wants the full amount.

“I need to find a way to do that so my family won’t sleep on the streets.”

Some of the other Constantia Village vendors have been working even longer than Mr Vera. They say their wire proteas are a favourite among international
customers.

The men say Constantia Village has been very supportive of their “hustle”, giving them hand sanitiser and free refills and ensuring they wear masks at all times when dealing with customers.

One of the vendors, Peace Mashoko, can also be reached on his Facebook page, PM Ubuntu Creative African, where customers can place orders.