It was indeed an amazing experience witnessing the humility, dignity and patience of the miners of Aurora. When the General Secretary of Cosatu, Zwelinzima Vavi, asked in Zulu which "home" should he inspect at the mining hostel, "Elias", they shouted in unison, in a continuing chorus. Who is this man Elias who is so hugely popular, we wondered? We stared in utter disbelief when they pointed out Elias van Rensburg; a 62 year Afrikaner was the symbol of Africa's poverty, a symbol of "profits before people", a symbol of the heartlessness of individuals and companies towards fellow being, a symbol that poverty knows no colour, AND a symbol of the capacity of man to live in harmony with fellow men given the opportunity to do so irrespective of historical events. This was African Ubuntu at its best, an expression of unity in poverty; Elias van Rensburg represented Lesotho, Mozambique, Swaziland, Botswana, Zambia, Malawi, Zimbabwe and South Africa for these are the territories where these miners come from. And when Vavi put his arms around Elias and spoke words of encouragement to him, the crowd (100% Black) erupted with rapturous acknowledgement. We have come a long way; the capacity to forgive the hurt of the past, the unity across colour, race and religion in the fight against exploitation, oppression and injustice permeated the atmosphere with an overwhelming spirituality.
Elias lost his house, his vehicle, his possessions and even his family deserted him because of his failure to provide. He moved into "an office" at Aurora, this was his new one-roomed home; empty pots, empty cupboards, furniture-less rooms, no food and no material possessions; no electricity for one year; no salaries for two years. This is the plight of 700 miners and yet they smile and say "but we still have water". Such patience, such fortitude, such resilience. It was indeed an inner feeling of peace as we rolled out a R1 million of emergency food parcels, water, hygiene packs and blankets to these amazing people, and witnessed the light of gratitude as they ate a cooked hot, nutritious meal with meat. Its been months since they last ate any meat. In their poverty they remain selfless and share with others whatever comes their way. They share their sorrows and their pain, these are grown men who cannot return home to their wives and children as it is humiliating to go back "empty-handed" with no food, no clothing, no money and nothing to show for years of service.
Aurora has emasculated them, inflicting psychological and emotional trauma, forced family separation and physical deprivation. Gift of the Givers will continue to feed these people, our fellow brothers, for another 3 months and provide additional support if necessary. These spiritually enriched dignified miners of Aurora need our rapid intervention and generous support. Please feel free to contribute if you see the need to do so.
Gift of the Givers has been approached by Cosatu to intervene in the crisis at Aurora Mines where unpaid workers and their families face starvation. We respond today with 700 food parcels, hygiene packs, water, sweet packs, supplements and hot meals for 2000. Zwelin Vavi joins us at 11am.