Lindane Mkwanazi walks slowly as he enters his house in Embalenhle, Secunda. His chest is weak, and he is often extremely sick. He tries to cough to clear his throat but is suddenly caught by a sharp pain in his chest. Holding his breath to try and suppress the pain, he walks on. He breaths a sign of relief when he manages to sit down on his couch and rest. With the winter slowly settling in he often suffers from shortness of breath at night. His chest is often heavy. When his sickness is at its peak, he does not sleep well at night. His wife must stay up at late at night to nurse him, yet in the early hours of the morning she cannot afford to miss her work in the suburbs where she works as a domestic worker.
Mkwanazi is a former Sasol employee. He suffers from Chronic Pulmonary lung disease which he contracted from breathing coal dust for more than ten years while working in a mine shaft underground.
“When l started working in the mine l did not expect that the coal dust would affect me,” Mkwanazi says
He had such big hopes for his family but before he could realise those dreams, he fell ill, and it became dangerous for him to continue working in the coal mine shaft.
In 2009 his bank wanted him out of his house because he could no longer afford to pay the bond.
Mkwanazi says wherever he tried to find work his medical history haunted him, it became difficult for him to secure any other job. He became sick more frequently and was often bedridden.
The only option left was for his wife to work as a domestic worker and pay what little she could for the house, yet the money was barely enough for the family to buy food. The couple struggled to pay for their children’s education.
” To think that l was only 45 when I contracted the lung disease, it pained me that l could no longer work to look after my family,” he says.
Mkwanazi cannot afford proper medical care. Government hospitals cannot provide him with the care he needs. He says some people whom he knew to have been diagnosed with the same disease had passed on. He feels lucky to be alive, yet his sickness has been unbearable.
With the current COVID-19 pandemic he is at risk. He must take extra care of himself. However, because he has no money, no job, or savings it is difficult to be on the safe side.
“My life has not been the same due to my illness, I need to take extra care of myself. But it is hard because l think too much and stress is not good for my health” he says.
For a minute he looks distant and suddenly his face is filled with sadness. Little did he know that working with coal would cost him his health.