Zwelendaba Mgidi is dying. He is a depressed, sickly man who cannot even leave his home or perform the simplest of duties such as gardening. He used to be a very fit man; a boxer and road runner full of life and energy. But the 28 years he spent working underground in the mines of South Africa’s Gold Fields in the Free State have left him a wreck. In 2008, aged 48, he received devastating news. The Medical Bureau for Occupational Diseases diagnosed him with silicosis, “an irreversible, progressive, incurable and at a later stage disabling and potentially fatal disease.”
Mgidi was recruited for the mines by The Employment Bureau of Africa (TEBA) when he was only 18 years old in 1978. When he returned home at the age of 51, he was a shadow of the man he once was. This is the fate that has befallen hundreds of thousands of African men who, since the gold rush of Johannesburg in 1886, were recruited from their villages to provide cheap labour on the gold mines of Transvaal and the Free State.
Broke and Broken: The Shameful Legacy of Gold Mining in South Africa explores the exploitation, the blatant disregard for health and safety regulations whose implications continue to be felt in rural villages far away from the imposing mine shafts.
This book explores one of southern Africa’s greatest tragedies and it is told by the men from Pondoland and Lesotho, the labour reserves that oiled the gold mining industry. It also delves into how, as a result of migrant labour, families were broken and how generations of families followed the well-worn path to the mines, only to return years later carrying a disease that is incurable and leads to a slow, painful death.
Broke and Broken explores how following the deaths of their spouses, widows are left to live in deprivation and struggle to raise children on handouts, thus creating fertile ground for another generation of poor young men with no choice but to follow the
same route followed by their fathers before them to the gold mines. It is a story of human tragedy, suffering and how in their quest for profit, the mining houses cared very little about the health and safety of the very men whose sweat made them millions in profit.
ABOUT THE AUTHORS
Lucas Ledwaba is a Johannesburg-based journalist and author. He is the co-author of We Are Going to Kill Each Other Today – The Marikana Story [Tafelberg-2013]. His work was also published in legendary photographer Jurgen Schadeberg’s book Voices from the Land . Ledwaba has published works of fiction in the journal Botsotso, Litnet and DRUM magazine. He is a three-time nominee and two-time category winner of the CNN\MultiChoice African Journalist Award for feature writing. He has also won the Standard Bank Sikuvile Award for Feature Writing and the Vodacom Journalism Award for Feature Writing.
Leon Sadiki is an award-winning photojournalist. His work on Marikana won him the Standard Bank Sikuvile Journalism Award Story of the Year 2013 and CNN MultiChoice African Journalist Award in the same year. His striking images of the Marikana massacre were published in his book, ‘We Are Going to Kill Each Other Today’ – The Marikana story. The photographs were also exhibited at South Africa’s seat of the Constitutional Court, Johannesburg to mark the first anniversary of the massacre. He is currently a senior photojournalist at the City Press national newspaper in South Africa.