People usually become homeless due to poverty or natural disasters such as floods and fire. But 57-year-old George Phalapandu Khanewa is homeless by choice. He says he wants to maximise his productivity in life.
He has a home, but does not live there because he works both at night and during the day.
Khanewa, who comes from Thekerani Village, Traditional Authority (T/A) Nsabwe in Thyolo, left his home village 11 years ago for Blantyre City in search of greener pastures.
He rented a house in the high density BCA residential area in the outskirts of Limbe and got a job as a security guard at a car hire company in Blantyre. But with a burning desire to earn more money to support his family, Khanewa repairs shoes along Mandala Road.
This makes Khanewa work close to 24 hours—as a security guard at night and shoe repairer during the day.
“There is a saying that ‘no sweet without sweat,’ hence, I work hard to survive. I will keep on working hard like this until I become rich. I admire people who drive nice cars and wear good clothes. But the right way to own such things is not to steal from them; I must work hard to earn more money,” he says.
Finding him at his shoe repairing site, he has pots beside him. During lunch time, he prepares his meal right there which is usually nsima with mice that he catches in a nearby bush.
“I walk around with these pots and I use them for cooking when it is lunch time. I hunt for mice which I cook and use as my relish. But when I fail to catch mice, I use my little money to buy bonya for relish. And when I want to wash my clothes, I do that at night when I am on duty as a security guard,” says Khanewa, who earns about K700 per day from repairing shoes.
However, he does not reveal how much he earns as security guard, only saying it is peanuts.
Although he rents a house where his children live, Khanewa rarely goes home once a month to give his children money for rent and upkeep.
Currently, his children go to Naizi Primary School and he says he will be more proud to see his children go to college and have a better life than his.
“I am not educated, but I want to see my children go far with their education. I am surrounded by many academic institutions of higher learning such as College of Medicine, The Polytechnic, College of Health Sciences, Malawi College of Accountancy (MCA), Malawi Institute of Journalism (MIJ) and Malawi Institute of Tourism (MIT). I see students walking happily to these college. Therefore, it is my prayer that my children attend these colleges one day,” says Khanewa.
His wife is a farmer back in the village and they have three children.
He says he always compares life in the village and in the city and he has discovered that urban life favours those who have money.
“Good jobs bring a lot of money. I see many people living happy lives within the same country we say is poor. The secret, I have discovered, is that those who are educated live a comfortable life while some of us have little to survive in this city,” explains Khanewa.
Whenever he visits his children, Khanewa says, he tells them to work hard in class. Above all, he reminds them to respect teachers, saying the future of the school-going children is in teachers’ hands.
“A teacher is a very important person. He sharpens one’s future. That is why I always tell my children to respect their teachers if they want to live a better life than mine in future,” he says, before shifting his attention to a female customer who has bought a shoe for mending.