Wearing a face mask? Get a free orange

As Covid-19 and the national lockdown bite, millions of jobs are being lost. Those with the least are being hit hardest, with some three million workers in the informal economy not getting any help from the government.

But a young businessperson in Soweto is trying to do what he can to help. Nhlanhla Mohlauli has made a name for himself in the aviation sector, and with his success he has decided to plough back into this part of Gauteng, which he considers home.

When the lockdown was announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa two weeks ago, Mohlauli said he knew this would have a dire effect on big companies. But the small businesses would be hit the hardest.

“If the big companies are suffering can you imagine how the small businesses in townships are doing? The majority of people here live hand to mouth and that means the majority of homes have nothing to eat when there is a lockdown.

“And then you get commentary saying township people don’t want to listen to the lockdown rules. If you have to feed your children you will be out there making sure you can,” said Mohlauli.

So he set out to help informal traders.

On the second day of the lockdown, he approached traders in Meadowlands, Jabulani and other parts of Soweto. His proposal was simple: he would buy some of their stock, such as fruit and vegetables and hand it back to them — except the oranges. When a customer shops at the stall and they are wearing a mask or gloves they get free oranges from the traders.

Now different stalls around Soweto carry signs saying, “If you are wearing a mask, you get two oranges for free” and people are grateful to get fruit that some battle to afford.

But what about those who can not afford masks or gloves?

“Because the masks are running out we ended up making our own masks that look really cool,” Mohlauli said. “We are not going around, though, handing them out. Instead we look at who would need them the most, like children and old people. And this has made a big difference.”

Muhlauli says the initiative will continue in different parts of Soweto and as long as his bank balance doesn’t break. “I will always jump to do something for the people of Soweto. Always. That is my home.” 

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Athandiwe Saba
Athandiwe Saba

Athandiwe Saba is a multi award-winning journalist who is passionate about data, human interest issues, governance and everything that isn’t on social media. She is an author, an avid reader and trying to find the answer to the perfect balance between investigative journalism, online audiences and the decline in newspaper sales. It’s a rough world and a rewarding profession.


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