Family is everything

Hoping for the best
At 49 years old, Johannes sells corn in hopes that his sons will one day take over the hustle and feed the family.
Mariud Ngula
Tuyoleni Johannes is a 49-year-old street vendor from Okahandja Park who sells corn around Eros in Windhoek.

“It is not a passion but a means of survival as I have a family to feed. Selling corn on the street is the only way I can support myself, my wife and my two kids in school. I must do this and fight for them, especially when my first-born has finally passed grade 12 after repeating. Hopefully, he will get a job and help the family,” he said.

The journey

Johannes started selling corn in 2018 after leaving his brother’s home shop in Katutura. He used to help him run the shop, where he sold necessities.

“We both have families to feed, and times were hard. I had to leave for greener pastures,” he said. He added that he chose Eros near the shopping centre as there are more people and the possibility of getting customers is high.

Since he buys corn in bulk, he also acts as a distributor to his neighbours who come to buy for their household consumption.

Trials and tribulations

Johannes said one of the challenges he faced was competition. As someone who has been in the business for over five years, he did not have much competition when he first started. He used to go home early, having sold all his corn.

“I could even get my children to come here for a holiday. But things changed and the Covid-19 pandemic made them much worse. On top of this, most of the people who buy corn nowadays do it out of pity after seeing my hustle; most just pass by.”

In cases where he fails to sell all the corn in a single day, he is left with no choice but to go back home with it and give it away to his neighbours for free. He said this is because it goes bad easily and can only last for a day.

Getting the corn

Johannes said he orders his corn from Otavi. He pays for the corn, the shipment and the truck driver. Despite the exorbitant prices, they are not always assured of proper goods, he lamented.

Sometimes, they get wilted and very small corn that is not suitable to go on the market and be sold.

“When we complain, we are told to go to the police. I do not risk it and it might cut my source of income. My family and making sure they are taken care of is my priority. I just discard it and hustle for money to pay for my next shipment. It even happened to me this month. I urge my fellow hustlers to have faith and never give up as the best is yet to come.”