Norman Mbedzi, a newspaper vendor from Mutale, thanks Limpopo Mirror for keeping his business going even during uncertain times. Photo: Victor Mukwevho.
For many people, newspapers are an indispensable part of their lives. They love the feeling of newsprint when turning the pages, and they cherish the experience of relaxing in a chair while reading the news. Newspapers, however, are much more than just a reading experience. They also form part of an industry that provides an income for many, starting with the street vendors who sell every week’s edition.
Mr Norman Mbedzi is a well-known newspaper vendor operating in the Mutale area. He remembers when he started selling newspapers, way back in 2004, at the Mutale Taxi rank. He started out with only ten Limpopo Mirror newspapers. Before the year was out, he was already selling nearly 400 Limpopo Mirrors per week.
The straight-talking vendor can sometimes be a menace to drivers as he zigzags through traffic while trying to sell his newspapers to his customers, who buy from him every week. Selling newspapers on the street, he says, is “a hell of a job”, and not as easy as it may seem.
After he collects his newspapers in Thohoyandou early in the morning, between 05:00 and 05:45, he starts off by quickly reading through some of the headlines (so he knows what’s in the day’s news) while he takes a taxi back to the Mutale Taxi Rank, government buildings and other business centres in Mutale. “If you want to succeed in this business, you have to be smart. You have to read the main stories, so you can tell your customers what they can expect if they buy the newspapers. It makes my job easier if there is a big story around the Mutale area,” he said.
“Through these years, I have learnt that people like to read about people they know. Last week, all the taxis drivers and their friends bought the Limpopo Mirror newspaper, because they wanted to read about the taxi strike.”
He sells more than 70 newspapers to government employees every week. “Some government employees take the newspapers on credit and pay after month-end. By selling newspapers, I have managed to put food on the table for more than 18 years,” he said.
The past few years have been tough, explained Mbedzi. The Covid-19 pandemic nearly destroyed his business as some of the newspapers were not printed regularly anymore. “But the Limpopo Mirror continued to print every week,” he smiled.
Anton van Zyl, manager of the Zoutnet group that publishes the Limpopo Mirror, said that people such as Mbedzi were the reason they kept on publishing newspapers. “Whether it rains or whether it is freezing, you will find them hard at work, trying to sell their newspapers,” he said.
Van Zyl said that now and then people phoned him, complaining that some street vendors charged more than R5 per copy. “Please be lenient,” he said. “We want to make the paper affordable to all readers, so we don’t intend increasing the cover price. The vendors buy the papers at a discounted price and resell these. Some of them travel to remote areas and it costs them a lot to get the paper to people. Rather give them a few rands more in appreciation of their hard work,” he said.
Date:12 June 2022 - By: