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Saturday, February 25, 2012

Winch Driver from Crown Mines, Pindile Dlamanzi

Pindile Dlamanzi and sons Luyanda, Mawetu

Under-development of migrant miner skills

     So often we are told of the lack of skills as a main driver for unemployment and poverty in South Africa, and especially in the rural areas. We also know for a fact that mining has been the backbone of the South African economy for the past 120 years and even though in decline, South Africa’s economy is still basically driven by mining. And also true is the fact that the mining industry was built on the back of black migrant skills coming from as far afield as Malawi, the old Rhodesia, Zambia and even from further up north.  In the skills mix professional work was a minute even though critical portion of the overall mountain of skills that went into the equation. Working on these facts one should come to the conclusion that stamina and skills of black labour were not only critical, but were overwhelmingly significant as “make or break” in building up the economy of South Africa. But the huge quantum of skills was cheapened and neglected, skills that should have been developed, either by the mine owners or by the educational systems of old and new South Africa. Given the assumption that there was a comprehensive skills development in place, building on already existing skills in parallel and ancillary technical schooling, this could have placed the South African economy on a much more sustainable economic footing than is the case today.

     On the opposite side of this under development coin the skills and professional standards enjoyed by the privileged whites, a small portion of the overall economically active population, we did see skills development. In the case of the mines there was no loss of institutional memory and standards in work ethics and policy were consistently improved. Whites were properly housed, had good accident and health compensation schemes, all made possible by their growing proficiency and increasing productivity as a privileged class of workers. Their children were well educated and further ensured growing standards of living in a growing economy. But black migrant labour was scandalously neglected and not a thought given to their social needs.  
     Many of the basic mining skills employed from black migrant workers required a few weeks of training to qualify them for a range of technical jobs, loco drivers, machine drillers, winch drivers, as well as technical assistants to professionally qualified white technicians, engineers, surveyors, samplers dust controllers and safety and health inspectors amongst others. Many of these jobs were based on pure practice for skills transfer from the well qualified to the under developed. Over long periods of time this transfer of skills should have taken place and prefigured to raise living standards and infrastructure in the homelands. Instead the money which should have gone in this direction, all ended up in the pockets of cigar smoking investors in London and New York. Had it been as it should have been, with social justice rather than super profits for the few, South Africa could have become the Mecca of Africa for wealth creation in mining rather than what Smuts branded the miners of Johannesburg – the Mecca of Hooliganism. Smuts referred to striking miners as the “hooligans”. Rather the real hooligans, who under-developed South Africa through the gold mines: the investors and profiteers hiding behind stock exchanges in the entire capitalist world. In fact these real hooligans set South Africa on a path of embedded poverty and underdevelopment. The only difference is that this hooligan class has been augmented by corrupt and ineffective politicians of the new, ANC Government.     

     Even though many migrant miner skills are generally regarded as “low grade”, improved and consistent development of institutional memory integrating and developing  training methods would have made the difference between fair and equitable development on the one hand, and underdevelopment and super exploitation of migrant miners on the other.  A huge difference in what should have been and what has become. Wealth became the backbone of a ruling race-class elite; poverty became embedded and threw generation after generation black rural communities down an irredeemable poverty curve in life standards and infrastructure. After all, black workers have the same needs for reproduction and improved education and health, housing for their offspring as do the privileged whites. But alas, as we will see from Pindile Dlamanzi’s testimony, older generations of mine workers have gone to waste very much as their rural environments have ended in overgrazing, badly eroded country sides and so-called “lazy” people only fit to render their healthy and able bodies of men to earn a marginal existence by the swear of their brows. Because of their traditional ways and means of living, their lower level of development made them vulnerable to super exploitation, robbing them of their life chances to enjoy the fruits of their significantly and largest contribution in labour to build South Africa at first seen as a thriving first world country for whites, but today on the downward slope of increasing equality gaps, poverty, crime and corruption. It could have been different. We often forget the role mining played in impoverishment of the country. Mining is not so much the backbone of the South African economy for the past 120 years, it proved finally to be the drain pipe to hell of under development!

     Pindile Dlamanzi was born on the 4th of January, 1940. He was the youngest of three brothers and one sister. Now in seventy two years old he has had the good fortune to follow in the footsteps of his father as an assistant at a trading store built a stone throw from his clan’s kraal, on the outskirts of Nqarhuni, about 30 kilometres from East London. The trading store owner, Piet Petman, had a good friend in the old Man Dlamanzi who often assisted in the store in caring for and identifying customers. He also took care of the little settlement as headman. This included providing security for the store itself and the Petman homestead next door, a clinic, a pre-primary school and later a few banks of post boxes used by the postal services. The clan lived as an extended family and the drift of young men to work as migrants in the mines was nothing new to Pindile. His first mining experience became informed by the narratives from his brothers and cousins (in Xhosa culture there is no distinction between brother, cousin, all of the same age born to the extended old man Dlamanzi’s extended family were siblings).

     Times were sometimes hard as the area around Nqarhuni was prone to occasional drought and remittances of earning from sons on the mines were critical to keep the family and the community at large  financially afloat. Not that there was at any time any endemic hunger, or the clan penniless. Even though the mine migrant earnings were small, the small remittances they could afford made a difference.  The storekeeper Petman was a liberal minded and kind man and supported the Dlamanzi's in times of need by providing for schooling at the nearby Mount Ruth Mission station run by the Anglican Church. But over and above this occasional squeeze in economic stress, migrant mining was not only for earning of a insignificant wages, but young men accepted that going to the mines was to learn "how to live like soldiers". This earned trust in the community and also provided for savings that could provide for labola (dowry) to pay for brides and be married.

              Pindile at Crown, Doornfontein and Buffelsfontein Gold Mines 1960 – 1977

     Pindile started his first contract on the mines in 1960, when he was twenty years old. He was allotted through TEBA (the employment agency of the mine owners) to work in Crown Mines in Johannesburg. Having never gone further than East London in his life, this seemed to him a great adventure. Returning siblings had told him so much about Crown Mines, located in the centre of Johannesburg, about places to visit, in addition to spooky stories about getting crushed a thousand metres underground and buried in a rocky grave never to be found again. With his smattering of religious teaching at the Mission school, where he achieved the level of standard two (probably called grade three in the post 1994 schools), this sounded a rather Satanic but unbelievable novelty to him.

     When he arrived by train in Johannesburg everything his siblings and friends told him about Johannesburg checked. He fetched at Johannesburg Park Station to be taken through to Crown Mines where he was allotted a room in one of the many compounds and issued with gumboots and a hard hat. The next morning he was called out from his sleep too early for his liking by his mates sharing the compound room with him. He was guided through what would become a regular and boring routine to wake up and pull his bunk gear straight, take a shower, grab a breakfast, and wait for the training centre’s Masiza (a sort of personnel assistant for black workers) who accompanied him and a few other new recruits to the mine hospital where he was given a rudimentary medical check up, and then taken through to the training centre.

     While the methods used at the training were nothing like he expected, one thing that really rattled him was that from during his induction, he would be referred to by the number imprinted on a plastic wrist band. His name was nowhere seen except in the time office where he had no access whatsoever. No other papers were necessary. All that was needed to find his way in and around the mines was to rattle off his number.

     The first week of training was for acclimatization during which he was put to work in a confined space, given a shovel, and shift gravel from one heap to the next. This was apparently to expose any of the recruits who were unfit to work underground. Then there followed a battery of aptitude testing of a very primitive kind. The obviously brighter recruits were put through a leaderless group exercise to move large poles over obstacles. The white training officer would then sit and make notes and finally render his verdict as to which worker was fit material for further training as a Boss Boy (I will use these terms as they were used by Pindile, who also mostly spoke to me in Fanagalo, the low grade pigeon language to serve the purposes of a master commanding slaves to do what, when and where!).

     Pindile was selected to participate in the leaderless group exercise. He did not prove any particular leadership skills, but was spotted for having an aptitude for technical work. This would place him on a “career” path starting with winch driver, graduated to a loco driver and eventually an assistant to a white technician laying pipes and tracks, assistant to an electrician, sampler or surveyor amongst other servile-status jobs.

     But being a winch driver certainly was not of a servile status. At fist he was allocated to an experienced winch driver as assistant to manage rigging of ropes for scraping in stopes as well as ensure that a safety “bell wire” was working at all times. This bell wire ran the full length of the scraper’s path and it was the assistant’s job to ensure that workers at the stope face were not dragged along in the rubble to end up mincemeat in the tips where ore found its way to the surface of the mine.

     Operating a winch was a relatively simple exercise. It was a double drum electricity-driven machine winding in a wire rope less that a 3 centimetres in diameter. As one pushed down on one handle of the machine one drum wound the rope in to move the scraper downwards, and pushing on the other lever again wound the rope in for the return journey of the scraper down the decline of the stope face.  While sounding easy to operate, the actual job of the winch driver was much more complicated. The driver had to be constantly alert and react instantly to any alarm calls from his assistant. Often the scraper got stuck by a rock fall and the winch driver then had to leave his post and crawl up to the stope to see how the scraper could be dislodged by either crowbars, or calling the Boss Boy, preferably the White Miner who was lazing at his Box drinking coffee or gossiping with other white miners, to get some blasting done to get the scraper dislodged and running again.

     Another regular happening in the daily life of the winch driver was that the wire rope would snap through wear and tear. As proficient as a sailor, the winch driver had to go to work with spikes and splice the broken rope ends together. If not properly done the chance of loose wires fanning out from the badly spliced joint could rip further apart as it passed through the system of pulleys and cause horrible cuts to any one who ended in or near its path. These wounds left scars for life, as Pindile himself was to discover later on when working on another mine.

     An effective winch driver is critical in the cycle of activities that take place daily in either a development tunnel or stope. When coming into the mine the winch driver is the first to start his scraping activity in order to get the stope faces cleaned up in a minimum amount of time. The sooner the winch driver is finished with his task, the sooner drilling can commence. The winch driver also has this ancillary activity to haul wooden mat packs up the stope face for propping up the hanging wall to withstand the effects of blasting which will take place at the end of the shift.

     Pindile worked an effective five years at Crown Mines after which he was home again in Nqarhuni for two years. But he was able to send home a remittance of R 10 per month which was of great help to his father. After resting out home it was clear that jobs in East London were as scarce as ever, and Pindile approached TEBA to get back his same job as a winch driver at Crown Mines. In this way he would not lose any benefits that accrued by coming back to the same mine. However, TEBA felt differently. New mines were opening up in the Far West Rand and still had to work hard to get their regular complement of labour steadied. So in 1967 he found himself at Doornfontein Gold Mine and was pushed back in his job rating and had to do lashing at the stope face for six months. After this he got his old job reinstated as a winch driver. He soon found his paces as a winch driver albeit that in a more modern mine he found upgraded technology and more effective winches making work easier but at the same the pace in the cycle of mining operations faster. There were also added dangers. Doornfontein was prone to flooding and often mud would accumulate in ore passes causing mud rushes and fatal casualties in its wake. Development tunnels would strike faults with sudden and sometimes catastrophic ingresses of water effecting large sections of the mine.

     At Doornfontein Pindile stuck it out longer than at Crown Mines and worked contracts consecutively until 1975. Again, after a year back in Nqarhuni and after trying for work in East London he returned once more to TEBA and again found that he could not get back to his old job at Doornfontein, but was sent through to a yet newer mine, Buffelsfontein Gold Mine on the Klerksdorp goldfields. This time round, however, he went straight back to his old job as winch driver which advantaged him significantly in pay and compound benefits.  This was the last mine he worked on. After returning to Nqarhuni in 1979 he got married a year later in 1980 and took over his father’s position as assistant to the storekeeper and security work with Mr Petman.

     Pindile's marriage was blessed by three children, two sons and a daughter. His oldest son, Luyanda works as a technician at Mercedes Benz in East London. The younger son Mawethu is preparing to go to Fort Hare University to study labour law. While most high school kids have the ambition to further their education but never make it either for poor grades of want of money, Pindile managed to encourage his son with a guarantee that the money would be there for him to continue his studying. His daughter has also become a migrant worker, but not on the gold mines. She commutes between seasons of work as a “kitchen girl” in Cape Town. His wife was not present during the interview but also has a job as “kitchen girl” with a family in East London.

     By 2012 Pindile and his family stay in a modern home which is not that unusual for a rapidly changing Nqarhuni.  Nqarhuni is a stone throw away from East London and is still tribally governed. Many politicians and state officials give preference to living in the countryside, or at least have country houses alongside their regular and even more modern abodes in the built up areas of Buffalo City, Cape Town or Pretoria. But for an ex miner the status of Pindile’s housing and lifestyle is somewhat unusual. The great benefit accrued from a land restitution deal as the storekeeper vacated his home as well as the store and left the house to the Dlamanzi family.   

Compound conditions

     The compound living conditions experienced by Pindile from mine to mine, Crown Mines, Doornfontein and Buffelsfontein Gold Mines, did not differ much. At Crown Mines compounds there were 18 workers to a room. At Doornfontein and Buffelsfontein this became eased with only 12 workers to a room. In all three mines, despite the first, Crown Mines, being in existence already for many decades, the actual layout in the rooms did not differ much. Whether there were eighteen or twelve to a room, all had concrete slabs as bunks to sleep on. This was quite universal except for the modern, newly started mines where “compound” has become a derogatory word, and managers and miners nowadays speak of “workers hostels”. Coping with the concrete slabs as bunks to sleep on apparently did not cause much consternation among workers. Most were accustomed to sleeping on floors in the rural areas. For mattresses cardboard boxes were flattened and this at least kept body heat from flowing away into the raw concrete. Each room was also equipped with a coal stove with a chimney going through the roof and kept the rooms warm during winter nights.

     The normal routine at these compounds was for mine workers to be woken at about two a.m. at the older mines, and at about 3 a.m. at the newer mines. They would then all flock into a communal shower which resembled a sort of stable without any separation walls. The quicker a worker got into the shower the more chance he had of having a warm to hot water. After showering workers would go to the mine kitchen for breakfast, given in plates and mostly thin maize meal porridge. Then the rush was to the shaft head to be the first down the mine as cages started running at promptly at 3 a.m. Workers would crowd into these double, sometimes triple decker cages that could take up to 80 persons at a time.

     Being first down also meant first into the loco trains to take them to their work places. In the older mines like Crown Mines the loco train journey lasted up to three hours and had to progress through extensively worked out stoping areas. After this drive there was some walking to do. Mine workers would arrive close to their working places at about four to six o’clock, but then had to wait in designated areas until the white miner came to do his bit in lieu of his reserved job under the Mines and Works Act – ensure that working places were safe, that misfired dynamite had all been located, and dust watered down. In reality the white miners never came down to doing these designated tasks and left much over to the Boss Boys or even to their "piccanins" who a luxury item of these miners of having a servant at beck and call for menial and even designated work.
A normal underground shift ended at about twelve to one in the afternoon and all workers would get their tickets signed by the white miners and charge back to the shaft stations to be hoisted to surface. Again the whole process of getting to be first in the shower, first in line in the kitchen for a scoop of whatever went for food, and there after, after the mealtime cleaning up in the kitchen all were allowed a portion of home brew of varying strength. At Crown Mines Pindile spoke of this brew for its potency as “Skop Doner” (literally, “Kick the Head”). After laying around in gardens or chatting in rooms with the brew that was dispensed freely from the kitchens, the workers would turn in and the whole working day’s process repeat itself the next day.

     The working week was six and a half days: Saturday shift workers went down the mine earlier and came up earlier. Sundays left the mine workers free to do as they please. The mine workers would form groups and never venture outside of their respective compounds alone, not even to visit brothers or friends in nearby compounds. When Pindile worked at Crown Mines the favourite haunt for entertainment was in Pimville, not far from the centre of Johannesburg and today a very well-known part of Soweto. While workers were from mixed nationalities in the compounds, when they went out for entertainment to wherever they chose and found what they wanted, they always went in groups from the same tribal origins, friends from home who were looked up from other compounds or simply work mates. From Pindile’s narrative, it is clear that Pimville had much to offer and was great fun.

     The favourite spot for workers at Doornfontein  Gold Mine was a walk to Bekkersdal “location”. Bekkersdal has an interesting history and was designated a dormitory area for black mine workers as long ago as 1946. This was an early break from the compound system during the  last years of the Smuts government, but soon clamped down by the National Party government. Sometimes groups of miners would go into Bekkersdal merely to buy booze, and then laze around Donaldson dam having fun with women who always seemed to knew where to find them. Pindile also speaks of the needed defensive nature of the outgoing groups afraid of the “Red Russians” living at Bekkersdal. Seemingly these were mine workers or permanent residents of Bekkersdal from Lesotho who wore blankets as a custom, but in this case the colour red became notorious.

     While at Buffelsfontein Gold Mine, Pindile and his mates walked across the open veldt to Vaal Reefs.  Vaal Reefs seemed to have been the centre for entertainment within the compound itself. Often miners visiting from other mines would stay over for Saturday night.

     Governance in the compounds was powerfully controlled. Open access to the compounds by outsiders was well near impossible. Within the compounds each room had to choose a delegate for the compound manager’s committee. However the Compound Manager, a white and senior official in the management structure of the mine, could refuse to accept the person selected from the rooms. He mostly made sure that those who were selected reported to him the goings on in the rooms rather than the other way round.  

     It is difficult for Pindile to speak of “grievances” as during the years he was on the mine there was a totally suppressed public space for any sort of collective action, let alone the formation of trade unions. But that does not mean there was no grumbling and mumbling over issues which bothered the miners. Much of this was also the carry over, or maybe the soft echoes of grievances expressed by miners who came up in strikes in 1920 and 1946 great strikes which became legendary among miners for years to come. But these strikes carried no “institutional memory” over into the sixties and seventies and it was only in the eighties that grievances could once more be openly formulated. Unions of mine workers developed at a snail’s pace to snowball by the mid 1980’s with tremendous impact once the National Union of Mine Workers got rolling.

     The first bother of the mine workers was indeed the low pay received from the super rich mine owners. At Crown Mines Pindile received R 30 cents per day. At Doornfontein, a decade later the pay was not much better and had risen to R 45 cents a day. A more significant but yet still even more pitiful given the rate of inflation over almost two decades, came at Buffelsfontein Gold Mine where Pindile was paid R 5,50 per shift. Still peanuts, but still the mine owners were beginning to feel the winds of change and the emergence of the National Union of Mineworkers. 

     One issue that was high on mine workers minds was the changing of the length of contracts for migrants working on the mines, from 180 shifts (ostensibly six months) to 270 shifts (ostensibly 9 months). The reason for this was as crass as it could get. Mine owners found that with the 180 shift contract miners went home for the ploughing season. This left a supply gasp of labour in the mines during those months when migrants went home to do their critical jobs of keeping food coming from their fields for their families. If, they the exploiters reasoned, the contract period was lengthened to 270 shifts this would mean that miners would have to fore go the making of contracts to suit their home-based agricultural needs. With the change they had either to fore go every second contract, still disadvantaging their agricultural obligations, but all in all agricultural work in the homelands suffered a devastating blow. According to Pindile, this single move on the part of the mine owners to move the contract period from 180 to 270 shifts per contract did immense damage to agriculture in Nqarhuni. As much damage as the original imposition of the hut tax to force black workers to earn money in the mines to pay these taxes.

     Often the mine workers murmured about the long working hours, or the many hours wasted underground in the mornings waiting for the white miner to turn up. Many hours were wasted merely to suit the comfortable working hours of the white miner's designated tasks under the Mines and Works legislation. But these were merely murmurings. The word strike was anathema and would bring down thunderous reactions from the white miners, officials and management in general. Often there were petty grievances which exploded into low key, non violent protest. On one occasion black mine workers held a “sit down” at the shaft station underground. Their objection was that they were late and were told to wait for hours until all white miners had been hoisted to surface. As they waited they noticed that the white miners were being hoisted in half full cages, even just 10 at a time. The workers started objecting to the white Shift Boss in charge of the shaft station and threatened to storm past him to get into the next cage even, with of without any whites. The Shift Boss, a rather conservative fellow well known for his usual practice to get his Boss Boys to assault workers, sometimes even assaulting them himself, panicked and shouted the black miners down with, “I am reporting you all for striking and am going to call the police!” Now the word "strike" was used and understood in such as way as to mean sedition or revolution. However, the black miners were unperturbed, being hungry, tired and angry and stormed past the arrogant Shift Boss into the cage. He then hit the underground emergency signals and soon the entire surface management, including the mine manager himself, were down the mine thinking that there was some major calamity taking place. When they noticed the actual trifling situation at hand they balled out the recalcitrant white Shift Boss and ordered that cages only be allowed to be hoisted up if they were full, whether with white, white and blacks or only blacks. It becomes a major incident for black miners on the mine to giggle about. The Shift Boss involved had to be transferred, so by all means it was clear that intelligent, subtle "mass action" had effect!

     Often there were similar murmurings in the compounds about the quality of the food or hot water that had run out, and any form of protest smothered in the germ. But in later years any move by miners to object in mass action were treated with kid’s gloves and appeased lest it flow over into industrial action when the Shaft Steward brought in their Union. Settling these issues on the spot became a policy at Buffelsfontein as mine managers became aware of the fact that having these inconveniences disturb a whole shift was costly should strike action ensue. Even though the National Union of Mine Workers was not very present yet in the mines, the mine owners took caution as a tolerantly repressive path.           
Safety and Health

     At the end of his contract with Buffelsfontein Gold Mine Pindile suffered a serious accident underground. While dragging the scraper down the stope his assistant, who kept watch that everything was going right, that none of the stope workers got stuck or drawn down with the ore by the scraper, hit the emergency bell. Just as the emergency bell was sounded there was a sudden jolt in the winch rope as it stopped dead in its tracks due to a huge rockfall in the stope. This caused the wire rope, close to the drum of the winch, to snap, and in a whiplash action struck Pindile badly damaging, almost amputating his his left hand. First aid was immediately applied and he was sent out of the mine on a trolley hauled by a loco. This was a usual sight underground in those days, and workers nonchalantly stood aside while the loco and unfortunate passenger passed by. Pindile was hospitalised for three months until his hand had healed, but it remained maimed. He could not continue as a winch driver. He was then paid out a miserable R 50 for compensation and sent home. Bitterly he says that he even had to pay for his own railway ticket back to East London. Unlike many ex miners like himself, when he left the mines he was apparently quite fit and his lung capacity unaffected by the years of working in an atmosphere of silica dust. However, in his seventy second year he complains of being short of breathe, the first sign that silicosis was closing down his lungs. He remains fit for his age but one can easily notice the pallor of a sick man. He is just one of the estimated 150,000 ex miners suffering from silicosis but unable to get through the mortifying administrative processes to claim compensation.

     The job of a winch driver is neither safe nor without its own dangers. The electric-powered winch was set in a concrete slab with the roof (hanging wall) immediately above it heavily fortified by gum poles to prevent and chance of a deadly fall of rock.  Often water would leak from the hanging wall and cause electrical short circuits endangering the life of the winch driver.

     The winch worked with two levers, one for bringing the scraper downwards, one for pulling it upwards. The rope was “endless”, it started at the winch and ended at the winch having traversed the full distance up and down the stope face. The winch driver had to develop a high level of skill to feel if there was any blockage in the scraper path. His job was a critical part of the cycle of activities of stope drilling, blasting, and finally cleaning out of the broken rock and ore to be transported to ore-passes and finally hoisted to surface then milled and gold and or uranium extracted. But more important was the critical role of the winch driver to ensure the safety of all workers working at the stope face.

     Having worked on the mines for close on 20 years, it would be most remarkable had not witnessed many accidents or suffered the misfortune himself. His mining days ended with a half useless left hand. On another occasion, when he was high up in a stope to repair a break in the wire rope of his winch, there was a massive rock fall which had him, his assistant and a lashing boy trapped for five days. Once they were rescued they came out dehydrated and emaciated. But there was no fanfare once he was hauled to surface. He was told to go to surface, take a shower, and given off from work for a week to fully recover. No compensation was paid.

     Pindile lost three friends to fatal accidents on the mines. The first was at Crown Mines where one of his friends was killed by a rock fall in the stope he was working as a lashing boy. These accidents were very common. The second fatal accident was more or less a freak accident. Walking down a main haulage way a friend tripped and landed in front of a loco hauling a train of hoppers, and killed.

     The third accident was common, but numerically less than often. One of his friends was working at a box-tip at the mouth of an ore pass, a 45 degree decline tunnel taking ore tipped from a higher to a lower level and then to be emptied into hoppers for tipping at the main ore pass at the shaft for haulage to surface.  The friend noticed that there was a blockage of rock at the mouth of the ore pass and decided to throw in his crow bar to dislodge the rock. At that very moment the rock shot out of the ore pass and behind it came a rush of sludge that drowned not only the friend, but flooded the haulage way for almost a hundred meters.        

     In conclusion, the level of skill developed by Pindile over a decade and a half as a winch driver was not simply that of a walking robot. He showed an innate capacity to do this special job and do it well, as did most workers selected and proven as winch drivers. That this skill was dormant is a fact. It was not discovered by a school teacher, but “mined” by the mine bosses and definitely “beneficiation” of this resource open for further development. Instead, many generations of miners like Pindile, who proved their skills, were thrown to the scrap heap much like an outdated, defunct winch machine itself. I ask Pindile’s sons, “would you ever follow in your father’s footsteps and become a miner?” NO! Why not? The answer they give is – “young people in the urban areas watch television. They know what mining is all about. The only people who would work on the mines today live in far off, inland rural areas who never watch television!”

A cleaned stope ready for drilling in a Platinum Mine