“Traffic light teacher” peddles Zulu words on street corners


Moses Mackenzie (23) has been homeless for four years but instead of seeking dubious means to make ends meet, he has found an honest and creative way to make money.

The teeming traffic and busyness of Empire Road is what Moses refers to as his office. Every day, he stands at the intersection and teaches motorists common Zulu phrases in exchange for small change.

“I sell Zulu words at the intersection,’ Moses tells me as we find a quiet place to chat.

“This is just my way of feeding myself, my sister. I would rather do this than steal or harm other people,” said Moses.

“I used to sell jokes, but people did not find them funny,” he laughs. “I had to find something else and all I know is isiZulu.”

He did not think people would be as receptive as they have been to his traffic light teachings.

“So many people are willing to learn isiZulu from me. People generally don’t like homeless people, so I try to stand out so they can notice me.”

“When people see people like me, they see crime. They roll up their windows and lock their doors – some even pretend we don’t exist. But we do and my Zulu teachings have shown them we are also people trying to eat like them.”

Moses says that this is not the life he envisioned for himself, but circumstances led him to being homeless.

“After my mother passed away, my uncle and I started fighting a lot. I could not stay at home anymore,” he says.

He dreams of becoming a sound engineer. His love for music and reading keeps him going on the streets.

“I want to go back home, but the streets are a better place for me.”

Video credit: Wits Vuvuzela



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