From a distance, he looks like a young man with a swollen leg, as he hobbles around his dilapidating four roomed house. With a winning smile on his face, he greets people with natural respect and sat on his only wooden bench perched in front of the sitting room. Before responding to questions on his working conditions at the mine, where he worked for more than 35 years, Mr Vuyokwakhe Khoza took a long deep breath before slowly narrating his experience, detailing how he left his rural Kwazulu/Natal village in search of greener pastures.
“I arrived at the mine as an energetic young man and worked very hard for more than three decades, but came back here sick and suffering, with nothing to show for my hard work,” he said.
Mr Khoza started working in the mine in the early 1970s. When asked about working conditions in the mine, he said black workers were the only ones who worked underground during the apartheid era, while whites only went underground to supervise for some few hours. He added that during their time, there were no protective clothing and some of them lost limbs, while others lost their lives trying to fend for their families.
“When the mine realized that we were sick, they retrenched us and some of us never received their pension. Because of my sickness, I can’t work in the fields. My former white bosses are now sitting comfortably, while the people who went underground and mined coal for them are dying of hunger,” he said.
Mr Khoza has six kids and seven grandkids.
“We all survive by my social grant and it is too small for all of us, “he said.
He concluded by saying that he is praying that the mines soften their hearts and pay compensation to all the sick miners.