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Blowing in the wind

A few years ago, a young Eastern Cape boy started collecting empty tins of food. At first, nobody knew why he wanted them. What was he going to do?

It was not long before the people saw. The young boy had made a little windmill. When you put the toy in the wind, its hands turned like a real windmill. Since then, many more youths have learnt the craft of making steel windmills…

I spoke to a few youths in Zolani township near Ashton in the Eastern Cape about their windmills.


Reginald Ntangeni has been making windmills for a few years now. He explained that this was not his job — like most of the other youths who make windmills, he is still at school. “Making these toys is our hobby,” he said. “We only do it after school in our free time. We are careful that our hobby does not interfere with our school work.”

“But we also make them to get a bit of money,” added another talented young windmill-maker, Jeffrey Ntantiso. “Many of our parents do not earn much, so we give them the money we get from selling the windmills.”

Don’t you keep any of the money for yourselves, I asked. “No. We give it to our parents and they give some of it back to us so that we can buy more materials,” explained Patrick Louwe.


The youths collect most of the materials they need in the township, like tin cans and bits of wire. But they have to buy the silver paint that makes the windmills shine and glitter in the sun.

“The silver paint is expensive,” said George Zweni, another youth who has been making windmills for some time. “That is why the price of our windmills is quite high.

They sell for between R10 and R15, depending on the size.”

Nearby, two other youths were busy putting bits of wire together. I asked them how they sell the windmills. One of them, Dagmond Zweni, explained that they have two ways — either they sell them themselves or else they ask other children to sell them. The children get R2 commission for each windmill they sell.

Where’s the best place to sell? “Not here in the township,” said Sydney Sehani, the last in the group to speak. “We usually stand at the T-junction between Ashton, Montagu and Bonnievale. White people travelling on the road support us the most.”

The youths say that they are not really a co-op although they work like a co-op. They help each other find the materials and they share the selling. “But what is most important to us,” said Reginald, “is that we know that we are good at our work and that we enjoy it. This is more important than the money we make.”

© This story has been slightly adapted from: Workteam magazine P.O. Box 1895 Gaborone Botswana


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