Miner’s veggie garden kept him alive

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Copy of PN Back To Work5 THE STAR Mxolisi Khuleka has no running water in his yard but he started a vegetable garden that became the main source of food for him and his neighbours during the five-month strike. Picture: Phill Magakoe

Rustenburg - Mxolisi Khuleka has no running water in his yard but he started a vegetable garden that was the main source of food for him and his neighbours during the five-month strike.

Khuleka, a general worker at Lonmin’s underground operations, was one of the 70 000 workers who went on strike in January.

He started the garden soon after the strike started, realising it was going to take a long time to resolve. “I went to buy seeds and started planting.”

He had to ask neighbours with taps in their yards for water to make sure the cabbages, carrots and spinach he cultivated in his front yard in Nkareng informal settlement survived.

“For the past five months, my wife and I have been surviving on pap and vegetables. When the workers were not paid the first month, they saw the vegetables and wanted to buy them. I told them we are all in trouble, they could have them for free.

“We have sacrificed so much in the past few months but it was worth it. Before Amcu came along, the government had abandoned us. We have finally got what we wanted.

“This strike taught us to stand up for ourselves. Before we were scared that if we did, we would be fired.

“All these people who say (Amcu president Joseph) Mathunjwa was trying to prolong the strike are lying. He got a mandate from us.

“Mathunjwa was God-sent. He came at the time we needed him the most. This strike has proved that as mineworkers we can do anything.”

Khuleka is now waiting for his first salary in five months and says the first thing he will do is install a tap in his yard to grow his garden. “From now on, I will start selling the vegetables to the community.”

The hardest thing for Khuleka was that he was not able to give his three children in the Eastern Cape the money they needed for school.

“When they passed last year, I promised I would reward them with gifts. But the only thing I was able to do was buy them their uniforms.”

Rockdrill operator Joseph Masilo-Entenie, who has to support eight family members with his salary, was glad the strike was finally over. “I had to take the two youngest out of crèche because I could not afford to pay the fees anymore. I also had to start selling scrap metal to make ends meet.”

On Tuesday, Masilo-Entenie asked for washing powder from neighbours to wash his uniform. “Since the strike started, we had to slaughter three cows from my livestock to eat and share with neighbours.

“It was impossible not to share with the neighbours because we were all in the same situation.” He now has 13 cows remaining.

His sister Conny Mosweou said the family had to survive on milk from the cows and eggs from their chickens. “When I heard the strike was over, I was so happy. Our lives can get back to normal now.”

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