I Will Build Again

Photo by Stephen Elliot in association with

The pavement is cold against my knees as I bend down and carefully pick up the beads from a broken necklace. They represent the little that is left of my business.

I close my eyes, slowly inhaling the fresh morning air. The events from the previous day play over in my mind.

I can still hear
their yells.

Picketing near the tourist market was a group of people on strike. Uneasy, I watched as some of them grew restless. I knew I was unwelcome and unwanted in this country. With so much unemployment already in South Africa, other African immigrants coming to compete for jobs only made it harder to find work.

Fleeing the violent war in my Central African country, I was one of the lucky ones who made it to South Africa in hope of peace and a fresh start.

But the battle to
survive didn’t end,
it just took on a
difference face.

Most of the venders in this market are foreigners. Unable to find work, we have each taken what little we came to South Africa with and started a small business.

Panic rose in my chest when I saw some of the strikers break away from the large group and come running toward our stalls, yelling, “Makwerekere, hambani khaya!” [Foreigners, go back home!].

I ran—abandoning
my stall.

They stole or broke almost everything. They took all of our goods while the police in the area watched the rioters steal our businesses, our livelihoods.

South African or foreigner, we’re all fighting for the same things—a life free of poverty, hunger and fear. But lines have been drawn, and yesterday I was on the wrong side of one of those lines.

Around me, the other venders are also cleaning up their vandalized stalls. We’ve done this before, this starting over. Today we will do it again.

We will pick up
the pieces and just
start again.

Souvenir Business Owner in
St George’s Mall, Cape Town

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