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AUBREY BOOYS was desperate for money to buy food and clothing for his nine-year-old son Jermole, but the 38-year-old single father from Hondeklipbaai was unemployed – and had no prospects of a job.
Last week Booys left his home and went to an illegal mine in the Bontekou area to try to find diamonds that he could sell. It was the first time he had entered a mine.
Now Booys is one of the 17 miners who are presumed to be dead.
Speaking at the site yesterday before officials announced that there were probably no survivors, Booys’ father, Daniel Booys, 74, said he felt awful.
“My son is gone. But the way I see it, it was his time. Aubrey didn’t have anything to look forward to. It was his time,” Booys said, his eyes continuously wandering to the mine.
Daniel Booys had himself been involved in the mining industry and at one stage had worked as a mine operator.
“But I’ve never seen anything like this in my life. My son’s eyes must be closed now,” he said, rubbing fine dust, blowing from the rescue site, out of his eyes.
Booys’ brother-in-law, Errol Duckett, said Booys was born in Hondeklipbaai.
“He was a good man who liked to make jokes…
“He was one of the slimdinge (clever ones) who made it through to matric.”
Over the years, Booys did administrative work for a number of employers.
Duckett said that late last year, Booys had lost his job and had been unable to find work since then.
“The joblessness was too much. He wanted to provide for his son, his only child, Jermole.”
Clutching a small bottle of juice and an apple, Duckett’s wife, Maurida, lifted her hand indicating the fruit and drink and said: “Look at this. We don’t have much money.”
She said friends recently told Booys about the Bontekou mine in which they were working illegally.
Duckett said Booys, despite never having set foot in a mine, seized the opportunity.
“He didn’t have a choice,” Duckett said.
Duckett said that last week Booys had called to say he was on his way to the mine.
“His last words to me were that I must ask my wife to take his son to Springbok to get the boy clothes,” he said.
Booys went to the mine and his family never heard from him again.
“It’s tough. Aubrey’s gone. Now all eyes are on me. I must provide for everyone.
“I have a crayfish boat and that’s how I make my money, but it’s tough,” Duckett said, rubbing his face with his hands.
He vowed he would be at the mine every day until his brother-in-law’s body was retrieved.
“That man loved food and loved to braai. He braaied a lot and he ate a lot,” Duckett said.
Maurida, sitting in the sand and watching the rescue operation, proudly said Booys had been a great cook.
“He was a somebody,” she said with a sigh.