Simphiwe is a serious man; he speaks with his hands, as he tells me his story.
He hails from a small town in Mpumalanga, Malelane. Simphiwe was raised by his grandmother and wanted to be a doctor growing up, like his paternal grandfather.
He sold fruits and vegetables at a young age for transport money to school. Simphiwe later moved to Mbombela and started attending church and got baptised. He says he “…like the way these Christians contributed to his life…”
While living in Mbombela he worked as a brick maker. He was involved in a serious accident in 1996 which saw him almost losing his right arm.
Simphiwe came to Johannesburg for a better life and started by doing recycling. He started doing wood work in 2006 on the side of the road, doing piece jobs and working construction – whatever was available. JMPD confiscated his tools and stock several times, while he lived in Parktown.
For some time, he would strip planks and cut to size and sell for repairs to shacks.
A woman saw him working on the side of the road and asked him to make her a flowerbox. Another man asked Simphiwe to build him seven plant boxes from measurements and reference photos, he was given.
Simphiwe’s business started from happy customers spreading the word.
Simphiwe made his way to Fairlands, as he was told he’ll find pallets and planks. He walked “…past Tshepo, selling his boxes, not knowing what’s happening inside…” a couple of time before being introduced to Tshepo by Anel in 2016, where he was introduced to Patrick.
He says working with wood reminds him of his maternal grandfather. He also used to do woodwork and Simphiwe says he now remembers small techniques that his grandfather taught him. He likes his job “I like to see something that I’ve made”. He says he learned people skills, how to work with customers and how to make a serious business from Tshepo.
Simphiwe says he takes pleasure in delivering a quality product, it gives him strength and courage.
Simphiwe still works when the sun hangs low in sky, the sawdust covering his face, surrounded by his plant boxes.