In a small cubicle in one of the hotels in Cape Town, South Africa, Paul Chimene is busily reading and taking notes in preparation for school the next day.
He does this at 11 p.m. every day before he retires from his post in the morning and heads for school.
School in the day, and then work at night, as a security man; this is the life of 29-year-old Zimbabwean immigrant resident in Cape Town.
Paul is an ex-military officer who served in the Zimbabwean Army for 4 years. His current life is influenced by the quest for a better life. It has never been easy or smooth for him.
A meagre salary and poor conditions of service compelled him to resign from the army in 2008.
He quit with the hope of landing a lucrative job offer, as a security man in Afghanistan, for a better pay than being a service person in Zimbabwe.
“I left the organisation that I loved so much; I was in the military police. I got a job in Afghanistan to be a security guard which was paying so much better,’’ Paul explained.
Afghan authorities refused him visa so the only option was to come to South Africa because at the time there was a cholera outbreak in Zimbabwe.
Paul Chimene Prince Appiah
His life had begun crushing because he had other siblings he had to take care of but at the time had no job.
The frustration informed his decision to seek refuge, better life and possible greener pastures in nearby South Africa.
The life he anticipated in what was an opportunity-abound South Africa was, however, a sharp of the reality on the ground.
With no contacts in such a new environment, Paul, with no job and accommodation, had to put up in the cold town of Johannesburg where the temperature could go as low as 17 degrees.
Coming from a country with temperatures as high as 30 degrees and above, one would understand how difficult it was.
“First time in Johannesburg was really tough, we were sleeping anywhere; veranda and in the streets. It [sleeping in the cold] was too dangerous because, at anytime, if someone suspects you they would attack you, that you get work and get paid, they want to rob you and take the money from you especially because you are …” he struggled to complete the sentence.
According to statistics from Institute of Security Studies, a non-profit organisation which aims to enhance human security; on average 363.1 robberies with aggravating circumstances were recorded each day in 2015/16 record year.
The figure presented 2.7 per cent increase from the year before. The rate went up from 283.3 in 2014/15 to 240.9 in 2015/16.
In 2013, Paul was robbed of his laptop, driver’s license and some money in Cape Town. Though he managed to recover them and had perpetrators arrested, it has not been easy for him because he could have been killed.
Murder rate in 2015/16 increased from 32.9 in 2014/15 to 33.9 in 2015/16, which means there are nearly 34 murders recorded per 100,000 people in the country.
Averagely, one case of murder was recorded 51.2 times a day. Cape Town leads the chart of cities with high crime rate.
Statistics reveal that the risk of becoming a victim of crime in South Africa depends, in significant degree, on your race, gender, age, economic status and where you live.
Homeless people in Cape Town are conspicuous when you walk the streets at night at the mercy of the weather.
The once homeless Paul is worried. He says,” A lot of them, I know that still sleep in the cold on pavements and when it rains they had to use plastics. It is still going on and it’s a major concern. I know what I am talking about because I was once there,” he recounts.
After the hustle and bustle for months, he ended up in a construction firm where he was paid six (6) Rands, less than a dollar a day.
After three months a friend asked him to come to Cape Town where he got a better job that paid 180 Rands per day.
“It was then that I decided to shape my life,” he said.
Paul managed to get a South African driver’s license with which he worked for almost 8 months and stopped.
By then, he had saved enough money to take up a maritime course online. “I saw a job advertised on the internet, and I applied. I told God this should be my job and I went for the interview”, he recollected.
So, he worked for 18 months as a maritime security but stopped due to the challenges that came with the job.
“The job was not secured because it was on contract basis. I was spending more time on the sea then get only two days off,’’ he said.
It was stressful for him because he works only when he is engaged on contract until that he wonders about.
“No opportunity to enjoy life. I had to get a new job,’’ Paul pointed out.
So he got a job at the former Israeli Ambassador’s Officer as a Personal Security Officer. His hard work earned him a promotion to be engaged as loss control officer on a pig farm his employer had bought.
‘’I managed to reduce the loss from about 50 per cent to 3 to 4 per cent and he was happy with that so he promoted me to Senior Security Officer’’, said Paul.
In 2015, young, ambitious Paul enrolled himself into Law School at University of South Africa, using his savings, as driver, to finance his education.
“I had good money, as a driver, with the driving company to go back to school. Driving was giving me money and so I said let me start the law course,” he indicated
His motivation, he explains, has come from books he reads about nationalists like Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King Jnr.
“I am a former soldier, and I have been trained not to retreat and continue the struggle and not give up in life, everything will be fine,’’ Paul stressed.
For him, “You can’t get the solution, if you don’t find the solution. You will find the solution if you continue looking for the solution”.
Paul Chimene’s long-term goal is to become President of Zimbabwe one day. His plan is to become an attorney to understand legislation, as he aspires to govern in future.
According to him, the first thing on his to-do list, if he becomes a president, is to change the constitution.
“Our constitution has draconian laws that cannot give the people freedom and right to express what they want. A lot of challenges I want to address is human right”, he pointed out
To be a president, Paul says, ‘’is not far reaching because if anyone can do it nothing is preventing him from doing it.
“If anyone can do it, what about me, I can also do it…. “I will change the life of people, and create society of equal opportunity”.
Amidst the enormous challenges, he has gone through; he can now send money home to support the family, working as a Senior Security Supervisor in a farm and a Security man for a hotel, as well.