Dispatches: With you I know I cannot go wrong

I am guessing Mr Mogopodi is about 60 years old. I never seem to get the opportunity to ask his real age or his first name. I only know him as Mr Mogopodi.

Tall and dark with a broad smile and a firm handshake, Mr Mogopodi sells Beeld and Daily Sun newspapers on the corner of McLean and Adcock streets just outside Kagiso on the West Rand.

He once told me that he had been on that same corner for some 11 years, but had sold newspapers around Johannesburg for more than 30 – "Jo'burg Central, Berea, Turffontein, Booysens, Rosettenville," he would shout towards me. Out of respect, I have never asked Mr Mogopodi about his family – whether he has a wife and children or even grandchildren – but I suspect that he has.

He said he was from Dobsonville in Soweto and that he was an avid supporter of the Amabhakabhaka – the Orlando Pirates football club. But during most of our one-and-a-half kilometre drives, we would speak mostly about the weather and the traffic. Sometimes he would complain about the cold and how he wished he could stay at home and do nothing. "But I can't do that … I need the money," he'd say.

For over a year, every Wednesday at 8am on my way to work, I have given Mr Mogopodi a lift from his corner spot where he sells his papers to the Luipaardsvlei train station, where he meets the newspaper delivery van that takes him back home. For my trouble, I am invariably rewarded with a copy of the Daily Sun, a warm smile and a firm handshake.

"Here you are, broer; with you I know I cannot go wrong," he unfailingly tells me just before he hops out of the car and disappears into the heavy morning traffic.

But on our last few trips Mr Mogopodi seemed weak. He spoke less and coughed uncontrollably, and his warm smile had turned into a painful grimace. He said, with the winter approaching, he was thinking of selling newspapers on weekends only. Waking up at 3am daily and spending bitterly cold mornings on the corner had affected his health, he said. The last time I dropped him off, he even forgot to leave me a copy of the Daily Sun.

It has now been three months since our last drive. I do not know what happened to him. I do not know where he stays and I don't even know his first name. All I know is that I miss him, his big, firm handshake and my Daily Sun reward.


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