Day 20

Welkom

So this is the last day of the trip and I only had to find two more of the miners to complete my initial aim of photographing 56. Because the mines in Welkom were all near to the town it seems that many of the miners still live very central. many of them in the same houses that they were living in when the were working. 

The journey to find and photograph the miners has been quite long and hard at times but has really opened my eyes to the reality of their struggles since losing their means to work. Now I need to process all of these photographs along with all of the experiences that I have had in the last 20 days . 


The Miners

No. 55

Mantso Mokoena was born in 1962 and started working in the mines in 2001. Before he was a miner he was working as a policeman. He left the police force because he felt that even though the mine work was hard and badly paid, it was a better option than being in the police force during apartheid. 

He was diagnosed with stage 2 silicosis in 2007 at the mine hospital and continued working until the laws were changed in 2009 and the mine was no longer allowed to employ him die to his illness. 

Mr Mokoena was one of the luckier miners who received a good education before he went to work on the mines. This meant that he had the tools to retrain after he was retrenched and he is now working as a paralegal in Welkom. 

Mantso Mokoena

Mantso Mokoena

 

Miners Knee pads belonging to Mantso Mokoena

 

Mantso Mokoena at home in Welkom


No. 56

Malepa Puso is 62 years old and lives in Welkom in the Free State. He lives with his wife, Mantwa and their 4 children in the house that he bought from the mines for R14000 after they closed in 2005. He worked at Free State Geduld mine for 24 years and worked his way up from being a winch driver to being a supervisor. He has 1st degree silicosis and received R30,000 in compensation. He now works as a gardener at the local school. 

Malepa Puso

Malepa Puso

Malepa Puso at home with his wife Mantwa


Day 19

Virginia, Free State

Back in South Africa and, again you notice the change immediately from Lesotho. In the Virginia and Welkom area there are many gold mines, most of them not functional anymore. The houses are not characterful but are bland and fit for purpose. Many of them were accommodation owned by the mines that has been sold on to the miners after they closed. 

This area is quite bleak and you realise that, with the mines closing, there is little work around and a huge amount of people that are in need of employment. In contrast to Lesotho, just a couple of hours away, there is no sign of farming and there is little chance of living off the land. 


The Miners

No. 50

Luduko Enoch Madindala is 53 years old and lives in an old mine house in Welkom. When the mines closed down they sold off the accommodation to the miners and their families. He worked on the mines for 29 years and played soccer for the mine team The Lorraine Lions at the weekend. 

    “In the hostels we would stay with 15 people in one room. The food was bad, even the toilet was next to the kitchen. The bed was cement with a thin mattress and people would smoke in the rooms”.

He stated that they were abused by the mines. “We worked very hard and there was not enough money”. When he first started they would earn R136 per month and by the end they were only taking home R1600 per month. 


No. 51

Solomon Tshehle Hlalele, 57, lives in Kutlwanong in the Free State. He started working in the mines wen he was 21 years old and spent the next 31 years working underground. He has 1st degree silicosis and received R31,000 in compensation when he was diagnosed in 1998. He was told to carry on working and continued for another 12 years working underground before taking voluntary retrenchment. After his diagnosis he was given no information or support for his silicosis. 

    In his years worming on the mines he achieved certificates in winch driving, loco driving, loader driving and PTV. These are all skills that cannot be used outside the mines. “There is nothing I can do after leaving the mines.” he said “I trained for underground work, I couldn’t drive a winch or a loco outside the mines.” 

Solomon tried to go back to the mines in 2012 to get a job but they would not employ him due to his silicosis. “If you have silicosis, the mines won’t hire you”. 

 
 

No. 52

Matela Hlabathe had TB 3 times whilst working in the mines. Each time they gave him treatment but they didn’t move him, he continued to stay in the hostel. After 36 years working underground he took a retrenchment package and now lives off a government pension of R1410 per month. He has pulminary TB and received R39,000 compensation from the mine.


No. 53

Vuyani Elliot Dwadube worked for 10 years as a brick maker in Cape Town before going to work on the mines. He worked for 16 years at Harmony Gold and was retrenchedin 1995. He has pulmonary TB and did not receive any compensation. His wife, Pamela, works as a domestic worker and nanny at the same house in Virgia where he works as a gardener. 


No. 54

Ezekiel Mutsana Masupha is 61 years old and is originally from Lesotho. He is staying in Welkom in the Free State now. He worked in the mines for 37 years and has silicosis from exposure to silica dust underground. His health stops him from working now and he survives off a social grant and a pension. To supplement this his wife is farming in Lesotho but his children are living in South Africa. 


Day 18

Maseru

The last day in Lesotho today. After managing to find Mr Letsie this morning and Mrs Selibo this afternoon we set off to find a village which we were assured was just an hour away. After an hour and a half of driving one of the most challenging, and beautiful, informal mountain roads that I have ever been on, we had to give up. We could see the village in the distance but we just couldn't find a way to get to it. Here is a picture of the road that we travelled, and a short timelapse to give a better idea of the drop off. 


No. 48

Sekhobe Letsie is 72 years old and lives in on the outskirts of Maseru, Lesotho. Born in 1942 he started work in the mines in 1970, when he was 28 years old. He now has 4 children and lives off the small amount of farming that he can manage and money from his son. He is confused about his medical condition and was adamant that he had never been taken for medical screening whilst in the mines. He has silicosis and has not received any compensation. 


No. 49

Makatleho Selibo is the Widow of Mahola Selibo who worked as a team leader at President Steyn mine. In totally he worked underground for 33 years. He passed away in 2013 and suffered from TB and silicosis. He did not receive any compensation from the mines.

On the weekends at the mines he would run a shoe repair business, fixing the broken soles of his colleagues shoes. Makatleho and Mahola had 4 children and she now survives on subsistance farming and livestock. 


Day 17

Butha Buthe

We spent hours at the end of the day trying to find Mr Boxwell. We talked to his neighbours and they shouted across the valley for him. We hiked up and down the hills, which felt more like mountains and we asked everyone that we could find in his village. We had to give up as it was getting dark and we had a long drive home to Maseru. I felt like I had let him down by not including him in the project, it feels so important to put a include everyone in the project, to try to give everyone a voice. When it comes to the court case next week, I really don't want for all of the miners to just be names on a piece of paper. 


The Miners

No. 46. 

Maleburu Lebitsa is the widow of Lekhoanyane Isaacs Lebitsa. She is 60 years old and lives in Leribe, Lesotho. Her husband died in 2010 after leaving the mines 4 years earlier due to his occupational lung disease. They were married in 1977 and for the next 33 years he was away from home most of the year. 

“He came home often, but I was practically raising the children alone. He would send money home every month, about R800”.


No. 47

Mataso Makone, the Widow of Molupe Makone, is 51 years old and lives in Butha But he, Lesotho. Her husband worked on the mines for 33 years, between 1974 and 2007 and died from TB in 2011. He was retrenched due to his medical condition but never received any compensation. Now she has to survive from money she receives from her daughters who are domestic workers in South Africa. 

    Speaking about why she married a miner she saidthat they met when she was 16, he sent a friend to tell her that he was interested. “I liked him a lot also” she said “Since he was already working I felt safe with him because I knew he was going to provide”.  


Day 16

Mafateng, Lesotho

I am getting near to the end of the trip now and am realising that I have heard the same stories over and over again. I am really aware that this shouldn't take away from the importance of the issue, in fact it should add to it because there are so many people in the same position. 

In Lesotho many people survive on subsistence farming and it is easy to think that, although these men have lost their jobs through sickness, they have farming to fall back on. The reality is very different though. It is by no means a way of making money that can pay for medication, their children's education or fuel to cook with. It is really just a means of survival, enough to feed themselves and their family and it is come by with hard, hard work for someone sick with silicosis. This was brought home to me when we visited Mr Tau (below) and, as he arrived home from looking after his cattle, he was struggling to breath, wheezing and puffing from the relatively short walk. 


The Miners

No. 43

Matiisetto Nong is the widow of Samuel Leponesa Nong. She is 58 years old and lost her husband in 2007.  He worked on the mines for 31 years and was taken home ot Lesotho in a company ambulance when he was retrenched due to 2nd degree silicosis and TB. He did not receive any compensation. 

After he was retrenched, the mines promised to recruit his son but did not end up employing him when he went to them. He ended up looking after his father until he died. 


No. 44

Noebejara Tau is 70 years old and lives in Mafeteng, Lesotho. Hw worked on the mines between 1972 and 2000 as a loader driver. He was diagnosed with silicosis and retrenched. Although he did receive a small amount of compensation, he now has to depend on subsistence farming and bartering with his neighbours in order to acquire the food he needs to feed himself and his wife. 


No. 45

Toulang Mako, 65, lives in Mohales Hoek, Lesotho. He worked on the mines for 21 years as a miners assistant and would sing in a traditional group at the weekends. During this time he contracted TB on 3 separate occasions and in 2012 he discovered that he had silicosis. Although he had a medical when he was retrenched he was not informed about the silicosis and was never compensated. 


Day 15

Maseru

Today was a huge day. We needed to make up for lost time and had planned it so that we could visit 6 people who were relatively close to each other. This morning I was worried that I am  not going to hit my target of photographing 56 out of the 69 miners but after today it seems that I am back on track. 

3 of the people that I photographed today were widows of sick miners. It is important to note the impact that silicosis has had on their lives, robbing their family of an income and creating an extra stress in terms of caring for their sick husbands and also, in many cases, having to be the sole provider for the family. 


The Miners

No. 37

Matsekelo Masupha is the widow of Mokonyana Robert Masupha who passed away in 2008 after working for 29 years in the gold mines. He was diagnosed with silicosis in 2003 and was compensated R89,000. she now earns a living by farming and selling traditional medicine. 

“Considering the hardship I face now. I would say that I am disappointed in the company that my husband worked for. He went there as a young man, he spent his entire life there but he came back with nothing to show for his work.”


No. 38

Monokoa Lepota lives in Roma, Lesotho. He was working in the gold mines when he injured his eye in an accident and was retrenched with compensation of R70,000. After he returned home he discovered that he has silicosis from his 36 years working underground. He cannot go back to work in the mines and so has to support himself by farming. 


No.39

Motlalepula Mokoena, 71 years old from Maseru in Lesotho. He worked on the gold mines for 38 years as a loco driver and a team leader at Freestate Saaiplaas and Free State Geduld mines. He was retrenched in 2002 and paid R36,000 in compensation for his silicosis. 

        He now receives an old age pension and lives alone as his wife has died and his 4 children have left home.


No. 40

Makeneude Agnus Litabe  is the widow of Michael Litabe who passed away in 2014 at 60 years old. She is 49 and lives in Motemekoane, Maseru in Lesotho. Her late husband worked on the mines for 29 years and received R38,000 when he was diagnosed with silicosis. 

She now has to survive by growing vegetables and farming cattle on her own. Her eldest daughter works as a domestic worker in Pretoria and sends home R1000 every 3 or 4 months. 

“before my husband died he lost a lot of weight and his skin became black. He was in a lot of pain. I feel that the mine must be liable.”


No. 41

Manthatuda Josephina Lebina is the widow of Liphang Lebina, lives in Ha Mpo, Maseru in Lesotho. She is 72 years old and has to survive by selling vegetables. Her husband was never compensated when he became sick with silicosis. He worked in the gold mines for 10 years as a store attendant at Free State Saaiplaas and a boiler maker and loco driver at President Brand.


No. 42

 

Mona Melao lives in Maseru, Lesotho and is 48 years old. He worked as a loader driver for Free State Guduld mine between 1985 and 1996. While he was on the mine he was a keen soccer player and a good boxer. In 1993 he sustained a leg injury and whilst in hospital it was discovered that he had TB and silicosis. He now has a wife and 3 children to support and works for his brother driving taxis.


Day 14

Mohale's Hoek to Maseru

It is amazing to see how far away from amenities and service delivery people live. In many of the homes there is is no running water and no electricity. If you want to find someone in this country of hills and valleys it is very easy, you ask someone who lives close by and they will shout across the valley at the top of their voice. Someone else will reply, at the top of their voice and it goes on like that until the person has been located. 

Lesotho is so different to South Africa in many ways and feels very laid back in comparison. South Africa is seen as being the rich older sibling and many people feel that it is where they need to go to get well paid work. Perhaps this was part of the allure of the gold mines, it certainly seems that there was not much work in Lesotho other than farming and anyone with ambition needed to cross the border and find work. 


The Miners

No. 35

Leseli Kompi is the 19 year old son of Maphatsoe Kompi who died in October 2013 from pulmonary TB at 63 years old. His mother died in 2012 and he is now left to look after his 15 year old sister, Naleli. They survive off the provident fund which his father left. The initial amount was R33,367, they are now left with just R6,687. 

    Although they have a little money to survive on and Leseli spends his time looking after the animals that his father left, he will soon need to get a paid job as a herd boy in order to pay for his sisters education. 


No. 36

Joseph Lebone started working in the gold mines in 1972 when he was 21 years old. He worked for 33 years until he was diagnosed with silicosis at the mine hospital. He was compensated R40,000 and only sent home when he developed TB. 

He started working there because he saw others who were managing to find jobs and provide for their families. Now he has to survive off the land. He grows vegetables, maize and wheat.


Day 13

Mohale's Hoek, Lesotho

As soon as you cross the border in to Lesotho it is completely different. Many of the houses are made of stone and horses are a common form of transport. The roads are windier and people seem to drive slower. The views are incredible but the distances are just as vast. 

The drive was long and so I only managed to fit one person in today. I did however stop a lot along the way and take in the incredible landscape along the 'road' that was really just a stoney path. 

The road from Quacha's Nek to Mohale's Hoek

The rolling hills of Lesotho

What passes for a road in Lesotho

The school in the village where we had to park and make the rest of the journey by foot. 


The Miners

No. 34

Matona Mabea, 62, was a team leader in Randfontein Mine where he worked for 30 years. He is from Ha Makoanyane in Lesotho and would travel to South Africa for work. Initially they would come home every 6 months but, as the borders became stricter, they would only be allowed to cross the border once a year. 

Now that he has been retrenched, with R27,000 compensation for silicosis, he supports his wife and children by growing maize meal and exchanging it with his neighbours for other food. When they need money, they rely on their daughters to send money home. 


Day 12

Matatiele

Matatiele is one of the most beautiful parts of South Africa. It is where the Xhosa and Zulu cultures blend and it is positioned at the foothills of Lesotho. It is the last stop on the Eastern Cape leg of this trip. I came here a few months ago to meet Alloys Msuthu for the first time so it was nice to return and be welcomed by a familiar face. 

Mr Mnaheni lives far from the main road and was almost inaccessible even with our 4x4. It really hits home how hard it is to get medication when you need it and the long journey just to go for a consultation at the clinic. 


No. 32

Thembekile Mnaheni asked to be retrenched from his job as a winch driver as he was suffering with a persistent cough and swollen feet. He was told that he could not work underground any longer so he asked to go home. After leaving the mine he found out that he has silicosis and after 23 years has received no compensation. 

He now survives on just R1410 per month from his social support grant which has to pay for his food, transport and funeral cover.  He has not stopped coughing since 1998.

Thembekile Mnaheni

Thembekile Mnaheni

Thembekile Mnaheni at home in the Eastern Cape


No. 33

Alloys Msuthu lives in Ramafole, Matatiele, in the Eastern Cape. He is 61 years old and has silicosis from 32 years working underground in the gold mines. He started as a winch driver and became a loco driver before becoming a supervisor. As a supervisor he was paid R3000 a month and from that he would send R1,500 home to his family. 

In 2009 he was discharged because of his silicosis. He was admitted to hospital for 2 years and is now unable to find any employment.

“ I was liked by my supervisors because I was meeting my targets. My team used to listen to my instructions and respected me. I had pride in my work and dedicated all my energy and time to it. That is why I got silicosis.” 

Alloys Msuthu

 

Alloys Msuthu in his days as a worker in the mines. 

 

Alloys Msuthu at home in near Mount Fletcher in the Eastern Cape.


Day 11

Bizana


No. 30

Thulenkho Kuswana was discharged from his job as a winch driver in 2009 when it was discovered that he had silicosis. He was sent back to his rural home in the Eastern Cape. He returned a year later to speak with the doctor about compensation and was told to go home and wait, he is still waiting 5 years later. 

Although he was dissatisfied with his salary, the mines treated them well. “It was much easier to find work at the mines because we were uneducated.” he said “ You would never go and not get work, but the salary was low”. 

Recalling a time in 1977 a group of workers were trapped underground, Thulenkho remembers being called my the mine to assist with the rescue operation. Although 3 people died in the accident, they managed to save 13 and they were rewarded with bonuses by the management.

Thulenkho Kuswana

Thulenkho Kuswana at home.


No. 31

Nanabezi Mgoduswa is 48 years old and has silicosis and multi drug resistant TB. Although he is sick he still works as a security guard as he has a wife and 2 children to support and there is no other income. 

He worked for 21 years in the gold mines and was given no compensation when he was discharged due to ill health. 

Nanabezi Mgoduswa

Nanabezi Mgoduswa

Nanabezi & Nokwanda Cynthia Mgoduswa


Day 10

Bizana

Bizana is a vast area with miles of countryside and dirt roads that seem to peter out to nothing before turning a corner into another small village. Many people live a long way from shops, clinics and schools and are used to the long journey by foot or by taxi. It's easy to see how healthcare is costly to access and why many people cannot obtain the treatment that they need. 

We are spending 3 days now in Bizana, because the area is so big. We have no idea where a few of the miners are but we hope to be able to ask around and with a bit of luck we will find them. 


The Miners

No. 27

Tekeza Joseph Mdukisa was diagnosed with silicosis at the time he was being retrenched after 28 years working at Western Deep Levels Mine. He was 49 years old and they paid him R36,000 (approx. $2,600 or £1,730) and sent him home. 

“I was illiterate and so I wanted to make enough money for my children to be educated. Now I am home I cannot afford to pay for my children, who have passed grade 12, to go on to further education… I am now teaching my children to plough the fields.”

Tekeza & Nothembile Mdukisa at home. 

Nothembile Mdukisa bringing water home from the pump.


No. 28

Mzawubalalekwa Diya, 60 years old, fell sick in 2003 when he was working at Goldfields Mine. He was coughing up blood and admitted to hospital. He was retrenched 2 years later and was never given the results of his exit medical examination. When a law firm took him for an x-ray it was discovered that he had silicosis. After 27 years of service at the mine he did not receive any compensation. His wife, Macetshwayo, now supports them by working as a cook at the local school. 

Mzawubalalekwa was part of a traditional singing group called Abavukizi (Gold Diggers) who used to write and perform on their days off. When a group of workers were trapped underground, they wrote a song to celebrate and thank the mine for the rescue operation.

Mzawubalalekwa Diya

 
 

Mzawubalalekwa & Macetshwayo Diya at home. 

Mzawubalalekwa Diya sings a song he wrote celebrating the rescuing of trapped miners and thanking his bosses.


No. 29

Malungisa Thole worked at Western Areas Mine for 19 years and was paid no compensation when he developed silicosis. In his spare time he taught himself to weld and now supports his family with his small welding business.

    “I feel very sad because I worked for the mines, making profit for them but they treated me unfairly by not providing good protective measures.”

Malungisa Thole

Malungisa Thole at home.


Day 9

Bizana

Total Distance - 2211 km

This morning read a comment below an old article on silicosis which really made me think about the lives of the people that I have met so far on this trip. The comment stated that miners were never forced to go to work on the mines. This, whilst being factually true, does not take in to account the full context of the situation. 

Most people that I have met on this trip started working on the mines out of a sense of desperation. They were denied a good quality formal education and many of them were in a situation were they needed to start supporting their families. Paid work was hard to come by and the one place that a young man was likely to find work was on the mines.

A badly paid job doing hard labour is something that you do, not out of want but out of need. In a way they were forced into it, not by any one individual factor but by a combination of factors that shaped the world they lived in at the time. Choice is a privilege and at that time, for many in South Africa, there was very little choice. 


The Miners

No. 24

Siporono Phahlone gained his certificate in blasting in 1998. This was the highest level position that he could achieve in his job. He could earn between thirty and forty thousand Rand extra a month depending on the amount of blasting work that he did. IHe had been given a house in 1980 by the mine, inside the perimeter where his wife and family could live with him. He enjoyed his work and he was one of the few that was being relatively well paid for it. 

After 32 years work in the gold mines, Siporono was diagnosed with silicosis and discharged from his job. He was paid no compensation. He had to return the Bizana, in the Eastern Cape, and survive by growing vegetables and grazing livestock. 

“I loved my job very much and when I left many people cried. They could not believe it because they knew how much it meant to me.” 


No. 25

Myekelwa Mkenyane was 18 when he started working in the gold mines. He worked for 35 years and was discharged in 2009 when he was diagnosed with silicosis. He received R36,000 in compensation (approx. £1,700 or $2,580) but has not been able to work since. 

“It was very hard to leave my family behind but, because I wanted to support them financially I had no choice but to be away for so long…When there was blasting underground, I cannot forget it. I still remember the dust from the explosions. That is what makes me sick today. “


No. 26

Masiko Somi fell sick whilst home on leave. He had been screened at work but had not been told that there was anything wrong with him. He travelled to see a private doctor in Kokstad in KwaZulu Natal who advised him to stay at home for a while to get better. He could not communicate with the mine and when he returned to work he was dismissed because he was late. 

Masiko had worked at President Steyn Mine for 19 years and was not compensated for his silicosis. “I have tried to get work for the last 20 years but my health has not allowed me to.” he said “ We survive by getting temporary jobs from neighbours, building fences and ploughing millie fields”. 


Day 7

Mthatha to Port St Johns

Total Distance - 1782

After 7 days I have started to notice the similarities in the stories that I hear. All of the miners that I have met so far went to work on the mines because it was the best way for a man without a formal education to make some money to support their family. It is much easier to try to dig for stories about how bad the conditions were and how poorly they were treated as workers than it is to try to understand the need for work and the satisfaction that it brought to be able to send money home. In truth it seems that most of the men were pleased to have work and never really questioned the conditions of living and labour. It was what it was and you put your head down and got on with your work to provide for your family.  

It is very easy to overlook how privileged those of us are who have a choice about what we do to earn money and to project that mid set by asking questions like "why didn't you look for other work?" or "what did you want to be when you were younger?" - as if there was a choice. 


The Miners

No. 18

Bongani Nkala is the first named person on the lawsuit against the gold mines and for that reason he is the miner most often named in the media. In truth he has no knowledge of this and is unaware of the many articles that have mentioned him over the last few months. 

Mr Nkala worked at Harmony Gold for 15 years and was sent home from the mine hospital after 6 months of TB treatment. He was diagnosed with silicosis and was paid R50,000 in compensation (approx. $3,600 or £2,360). He used the compensation money to buy a Toyota Avenza and worked as a taxi driver until 2009 when he could not afford the maintenance on his car. 

"We were always aware that something could happen" he said as he described a time when 7 of his fellow workers died in a rock fall about 6 metres away from him. "The hardhats were squashed flat under the rocks" he told me. "The safety procedures were not followed" he continued  "We weren't given dust masks and we were never told about the dangers of silica dust."

Bongani Nkala

Bongani Nkala at home.


No. 19

Landile Qebela, 52 years old, has 9 children and works as a security guard now that he cannot work in the mines any longer. He has silicosis from his 32 years service at Vaal Reefs No.8  and received R52,000 compensation in 1995 (approx. £2,460 or $3,730). He stayed at the mine for another 5 years working as a loco driver on the surface until he was retrenched because they could not find a suitable job for someone so sick. 

Mr Qebela went to find work in the mines when he was 25 because his mother became sick and he needed to make money to provide for his sister's future. He managed to send enough money home over the years to support her until she gained her teachers certificate. 

Landile & Nomzi Elizabeth Qebela at home.


Day 6

Butterworth

Total Distance - 1633 km

One thing that I realised today is that it is really easy to overlook the fact that many of the miners were trained in very specific aspects of their work (see the training certificates below). They learnt on the job over a matter of years, and the skills were non-transferrable to the jobs on the surface. When you are forced out of your job in your mid-forties it is very hard to start again especially when you have a very specific skill set.  Add to that the fact that many people went to work on the mines because they were uneducated and illiterate and did not have the skill set to find other employment 35 years later. It makes you realise that this is much more than just losing a job, it is the loss of a livelihood. 


The Miners

No. 15

Monde Mxesibe lives alone in Zagwityi near Butterworth. He is 62 years old and worked on the mines for 26 years. He has Pulmonary TB and, in 1996, he was told by the mine that he would be compensated. He has still received nothing from them. 

He told me that the scariest thing about working on the mine was the lift journey to get underground. 75 people would cram into a three storey cage which was held by just one steel rope. He heard that the rope had once broken on another mine and everyone in the lift had died. He tried hard not to think about it and focused on the money he was making to send home to his parents.

Monde's main dream in life was to own a car but he never managed to save enough money.  

Monde Mxesibe

Monde Mxesibe at home. 


No. 16

Mncedisi Dlisani  worked in explosives at Western Areas Mine. He would drill the holes, place the dynamite and light the fuse from a distance away. This exposed him to a large amount of dust. 

"Sometimes we used masks and sometimes we didn't. There wasn't always a supply." he told me. 

Mr Dlisani was diagnosed with Pulmonary TB and spent 9 months in the mine hospital. During that time he did not receive his monthly wage to send home and so his wife, Nokwakha, had to beg relatives for money to feed her family. 

He left the job 2 years later and returned to Butterworth where he spent another 9 months in hospital. After 15 years of service at Western Areas Gold Mine, he received no compensation for his illness. 

Mncedisi Dlisani

 

Certificate showing completed training. 

 

Mncedisi Dlisani with his wife Nokwakha and their daughter Sisipho.


No. 17 

Agrippa Dlisani, 60 years old, was a loader and sweeper at Bracken Gold Mine. He went to find work at the mines because his father passed away and he became responsible for supporting his mother and brothers. He spent 6 months in the mine hospital with pulmonary TB in 1983 and was retrenched in 1989. He now washes cars in Butterworth for R50 a day (approx. £2.40 or $3.60). 

Agrippa’s main hope is that they win the case against the gold mines so that he can get enough money to pay for further education for his children. 

Agrippa Dlisani

Agrippa Dlisani next to his Kraal.


Day 3

Queenstown

Total Distance - 858 km

Both of the miners that we met today were working in Queenstown as gardeners. Although they were both old enough to be retired, they have to keep working to support their families. We met them both in town and they directed us to their homes, in different townships outside Queenstown. It is amazing the distances that people travel to get to work, especially since they are paid so little for their labour. For R50 per day (approx. £2.50 or $3.75), to many people it would not seem worth the effort but this just goes to illustrate how poor many people are in this country and how they are still forced to get by on so little. 

Here is a time lapse and some photographs from the townships that we visited today, hopefully they give a good idea of the size and conditions of living that many people have to endure. We picked up Mr Mtshange from the side of the road in Queenstown, you can see from the film how quickly the town with fast food restaurants changes in to a township with very little service delivery. 

 
 


Mr Mtshange's neighbours came out to see what we were doing and asked for a photograph.

Linge township is mostly run down and many businesses have been abandoned due to lack of funds. 

Many of the houses were built with doors on the wrong side, so they were bricked up.


The Miners

No.5

 Zonisele Nkompela is 73 years old and works a a gardener for a family in Queenstown. He lives in Linge township about 25 minutes taxi ride from his home. He is paid R85 per day (approx. £4 or $6) plus money for transport. With this money he must support his family who live far away in Qoqodala. He goes to visit them once a month but then returns to Queenstown as this is where he is able to find work. 

Mr Nkompela worked for 29 years on Harmony Gold Mine and was paid R36,000 (approx £1,735 or $2,700) in compensation when he was diagnosed with silicosis by the mine doctor. 

Zonisele Nkompela

 

Zonisele signs the miners helmet, leaving space for all the rest. 

 

Zonisele Nkompela in his home outside Queenstown. He travels back to his family once a month. 


No.6

Mthuthuzeli Mtshange has 8 children in Flagstaff, 390km from Queenstown. He works as a gardener to make money to send home for his family. He is paid R50 a day (approx. £2.40 or $3.70). He lives in a township on the outskirts of Queenstown as it is all he can afford. 

Mr Mtshange worked on the gold mines for 35 years and was retrenched without reason in 1996. He was diagnosed with silicosis and TB and received no compensation from the mines. 

Mthuthuzeli Mtshange

Mthuthuzeli Mtshange infront of his shack on the outskirts of Queenstown, Eastern Cape. 


Day 2

King Williams Town to Queenstown via Hofmeyer

Total Distance - 757 km

This was always going to be one of the longest drives of the whole trip, it rained most of the way and the driving conditions were not great. We did listen to the news every half an hour for about seven hours though. 

We met Mr Jibhana in the road outside the town of Whitlesea, it's amazing how the most loosely made plans seem to just work out in the Eastern Cape, he was just sitting outside a shop waiting for us, without any real indication of when we would turn up. The road to Hofmeyr is one long, straight road through the Karoo desert. Hofmeyr just springs up out of nowhere and, from the looks we got, doesn't get a lot of visitors. 

Here is a map of the trip so far and a short timelapse that shows just the last part of the drive to Hofmeyr. We drove 3.5 hours just to see Mr Bozo and luckily he was there to meet us in town. 

It's important to remember the vast distances that these men have to travel, by bus or taxi,  to access any kind of healthcare outside of that available in their small rural town. 


The Miners

 

No. 3

Dyamara Jibhana lives in Whitlesea, Eastern Cape with his brother. He worked on the mines for 39 years and received no compensation when he was diagnosed with silicosis and sent home. Up until 2008 he was working at Beatrix Gold Mine in Witwatersrand BasinHe is now 65 years old and waiting to hear whether he will get some money to help him live with his condition. 

Mr Dyamara Jibhana

 

Miners belt belonging to Mr Jibhana

 

Mr Jibhana and his brother Philip Jibhana in the home that they share. 


No.4

Zimoshile Bozo is 57 years old and lives in Hofmeyr, Eastern Cape. He worked on the mines for 27 years at Blyvooruitzicht Gold Mine and was diagnosed with silicosis in 2008. He didn't receive any compensation and now has to rely on his sister to look after him as he is unable to find work. He lives with with his sister and her children in a small 3 room house in the township outside Hofmeyr. 

Mr Zimoshile Bozo

 

Work book from Rand Mines belonging to Mr Bozo.

 

Zimoshile Bozo with his sister Zoleka and her children Avethanda & Amahle, in the home they share.

The home that Zimoshile Bozo lives with his sister and her children