Immigrants at work: The Parow flea market
Cameroon-born Desmond Chia is a stall owner at the Parow flea market. The harsh weather Cape Town has recently seen makes it hard for him to run his business.
It became windy and started raining as he was busy setting up last week’s flea market. He throws a large piece of plastic over his wares, fixing it on iron rods so the wind will not blow it away. His other challenge is to keep his goods dry — he continually checks for leaks.
“Sister you see how hard this job is, even when it rains heavily I am here, I do not skip setting up the flea market because it is an advantage to me. I make more money since most people who are in the same business skip sometimes. As you can see that today it is raining and there are only the two of us. Weather is not just my challenge. When I finish work I have to pack back the stuff in bags, remove the steel bars and partitions. I then push them to the store room which is approximately a kilometre away and the battle starts again tomorrow. I also have a problem with thieves. I have lost count of how many thieves come here and pretend to be customers. I started this business seven years ago with a starting capital of R700 I borrowed from a friend,” he explains.
Chia sold three jackets for R200 each and a girl child skin tight for R20 while GroundUp was interviewing him. The merchandise on display includes dish towels, satchels and Nike tracksuits for R160, which Chia insists are not imitation. He negotiates prices with customers and sounds very convincing when he tells them that they would buy the same product at double the price outside of the market.
He says that the R57 he pays to the municipality monthly is a fair price and should not be considered cheap as he has many expenses. “I also have employees, a seller whom I pay R300 weekly. I also pay a guy who takes the staff to and from the store room R30 daily. I pay R300 monthly rental fees for the store room.” He says it is necessary for him to have employees so that he can travel to buy merchandise from the wholesalers.
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