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 4×4. 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.
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.
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.”