Mpumalanga man who ferried union leaders during the struggle wishes to be reunited with Mantashe
He said he has tried to call his office several times but was always told the minister was busy.
Dan Kganane and his 1981 Toyota Corolla at his home in Leroro, Mpumalanga, 4 February 2022. Picture: Jacques Nelles
This video is no longer available. If everything he has ever owned, Dan Kganane’s most precious property is a timeworn sedan decaying hopelessly in his yard; but he has every reason to hold on to this piece of scrap. Now a useless shell housing rats, the 1983 Toyota Corolla holds significant value to the retired mineworker, etching him into the history of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM). As the only worker with a car at Matla Colliery in Witbank at the time, Kganane, 63, got to rub shoulders with the union’s formative leaders, including current Minister of Mineral Resources…
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If everything he has ever owned, Dan Kganane’s most precious property is a timeworn sedan decaying hopelessly in his yard; but he has every reason to hold on to this piece of scrap.
Now a useless shell housing rats, the 1983 Toyota Corolla holds significant value to the retired mineworker, etching him into the history of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM).
As the only worker with a car at Matla Colliery in Witbank at the time, Kganane, 63, got to rub shoulders with the union’s formative leaders, including current Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy Gwede Mantashe. He reminisced about how he ferried the young fiery leaders to and from meetings that rarely ended before midnight as he evaded apartheid police.
“That was my biggest nightmare. Even today I wonder how I evaded all those roadblocks. I was happy to drive them but I always feared arrest,” Kganane said.
The car, which had never given him problems since he bought it brand new in 1983, broke down in 2008, the same year Kganane retired to his home village.
“I bought the car in Hillbrow, Johannesburg and it was my first car. I think I paid a R500 instalment. It was the monster of the road during its time and very popular so I became well known myself,” he said.
The Saturday Citizen visited the humble, soft-spoken man in Leroro, a village in Thaba Chweu local municipality about four-and-a-half-hour drive from Johannesburg.
The village forms part of the Panorama Route, the picturesque Mpumalanga province’s escarpment with Blyde River Canyon, the third largest in the world, in the Ehlanzeni district.
“All they did was put petrol in the car. There was no payment arrangement for my services and I did not mind because I was a member, so the meetings benefitted me as well,” Kganane said.
He was never allowed in the meetings so he waited in the car, mostly until the early hours of the next day. Sitting behind the now tattered steering wheel, he remembers the intense political discussions among his smart, disciplined and brave passengers.
He points at the front passenger seat, saying this is where the union’s firebrand leaders Emanuel Masita (Kriel branch chair) and the back seat where Mantashe (Witbank branch chair), as well as the late Crosby Moni (Witbank deputy chair) sat during the trips.
Kganane said he met Mantashe in 1982 when at Matla Colliery and was his driver until 1984, with Mantashe elected NUM regional secretary the following year. Between 1988 and 1993, Mantashe served as NUM’s national organiser and regional coordinator between 1993 and 1994.
“He was a brave, fearless leader and selfless,” he said.
“Those guys hardly slept and played a key role in improving the lives and working conditions of mineworkers. I am not surprised that he is a minister today.”
Kganane has other two other cars, a Nissan 1400 bakkie and a one-ton bakkie he bought when he retired to run a small business, but all have broken down. He tried to fit the Toyota Corolla’s engine into the one-ton bakkie to get going but this did not work. Kganane’s greatest wish is to be reunited with Mantashe.
He said he has tried to call his office several times but was always told the minister was busy. “Every time I see him on television, I wish I could speak to him and go down memory lane like old comrades.
“He must come and see the car that I used to drive them in. Who knows, maybe my old comrade Mantashe will help me fix these scraps,” he said.
Asked if he drove the leaders anywhere else other than to meetings, Kganane said the union leaders had no time for anything but union work. Mantashe’s spokesperson Nathi Shabangu could neither confirm nor deny Kganane’s story, but Sam Kgokolo, NUM’s Kriel branch secretary at the time, corroborated it.
“I remember him very well. He did use his car to transport leaders to meetings in Witbank. “Mostly he would ferry Masita, Mantashe, Moni and others.
“I did not attend meetings at the time as I had to man the branch office,” he said. Kgokolo, 80, retired to his home town of Lebowakgomo, Limpopo, in 2006.