Thobile Maso: Journey Of My Soul
After passing Std 10 I started looking for a job. Finding a job was difficult as in many ways jobs were scarce, it means you have to pay a person who is hiring amount of money in order to get a permanent job. So in 1980 I went job hunting with my two friends. We went to one factory for which the personnel manager was a black man who was alleged to be selling jobs. We were given forms to fill and as we were filling them we started discussing the uselessness of filling these forms since we do not have money to pay our way into the factory. As a young man who was desperate for a job I did no want to be rejected. So when we returned the forms to the man I was the one who handed them to him and I accompanied them with the following words, do you know trouble? I mean have you ever been in trouble? If you do not employ us you will be in trouble. I do not know what was in his mind, but the man was scared out of his wits.
However, my threats did the trick because my two friends were hired later, and that time I was also offered to do the Post office aptitude test and after that was selected for Technician training at Post Office College in Pretoria. This was quite an opportunity because it meant as a trainee I was also paid some money while I was in training. Every month I usual send the money for the woman who assisted me in my education and initiation school. She was able to pay all her credits and she wrote a letter thanking and telling me that I can stop sending money. I also thanked her for being an anchor of my life and a driving force for my future.
Life in the training college had its ups and downs. We were trainees from various regions and with different ethnic groups and cultural backgrounds. We lived in the hostel township called Soshanguve, that means, (Sotho, Shangane, Nguni, Venda).The Block we were all staying in had one kitchen and five electric stove but each cooked for himself. The differences were sometimes brought to the front by things that happened amongst us. Like one month-end the trainees from Ciskei’s wages were delayed as we were all paid from the regions we came from. Now there was this one guy from Ciskei who was drunk and was boasting saying that although their money was delayed he was going to eat meat as well that night. We were all wondering where he was going to get his meat. Soon one man from Natal realised that his pot of meat was missing. So he started searching even in the lockers. Now in the dormitory where the drunken guy slept his room mates, he directed that other lockers could be searched except for one.
"You can search in this one, that one and that one but not this one." He said as he moved closer to the locker, which was not supposed to be searched. This was a good hint for the one searching that his pot of meat could be in the locker he was prohibited from searching.
But this man was determined to find his pot of meat and the directive was quite guiding for him. He went straight for the locker and found his pot of meat, the pot was still hot with water vapour. The drunken man started fighting the owner of the pot and I intervened trying to separate them. Unfortunately this drunk man who had stolen meat started fighting me. I found this behaviour can be a problem to us and I slapped him to stop him from fighting. The other men from Ciskei were angry with me and accused me of being unreasonable and not supportive, that it was bad to fight your own people. However the meeting was called then I reported what transpired and also explaining actions and intentions of trying to defuse the situation. I however explained that the man was being silly and if I did not step in that would break into a serious ethnic group fighting. They understood and also scolded him as they appreciated the outcome. I had a task of cooling and convincing the Natal group, who were already preparing for a fight, but I talked to them and showed the necessity of us discussing our misunderstandings and problems rather than resorting on fight each other.
There were also funny sides of each other we came to see just because we stayed together and slept together in the dormitory. Four people per rooms also fighting. In. One day one guy was a sleep walking and in his dream he w my attempt to wake him up I called him by his name; He just shot for me and targeted his blows to me. I dodged him because I knew he was still in his dream. He woke up after I jumped to switch on the light. Since then I learnt that it is better to keep quiet when one is talking, or fighting in his or her dream otherwise you become part of the dream world.
I also made myself the butt of joke one night. In the hostel we used to play monopoly and cards games. So one particular night I was not playing and went to sleep early. When I woke up to go to the bathroom, the other people were still playing. I was so surprised that I made this comment.
'You guys really like this thing you have even started playing in the morning.'
They all broke into laughter telling me that it was not yet morning and that they will soon stop playing and join me in the sleep.
During our first year at the college we joined South African Alliance Workers’ Union (SAAWU) which was in East London. we attended meetings and started being active in the union’s activities. During of our training we were told that we were going to be transferred to Ciskei homeland which, four of us refused on the grounds that we were employed under South African system and the rest of the trainees agreed to be transferred in Ciskei. The homelands were not fully incorporated in this system then. Employers had no choice and ended up posting three of us in East London and the one in Queenstown. Two of us were in Wilsonia yard and the other one was working in another yard. The workers in Telecom and Post Office were respectively complaining about low wages and working conditions and they were looking to us to come up with plan to address the situation. We were still trainees and had two years ahead of us to qualify as Telecom Electricians, and in 1983 we qualified and our job was to rectify underground cables
This was the same year Mdantsane community boycotted the Ciskeian buses and SAAWU as a trade union and the whole mass democratic movement (MDM) was spear heading that boycott. This boycott took about 20 months. Mdantsane commuters were using trains and that is where I learnt a lot on involvement on political work that was needing one to excise discipline and behaving your way of dealing with people and tolerance, acceptance and appreciation of other people’s belief and focus to a specific enemy. I found myself distributing the pamphlets and did not asked where they come from as long they were giving a political direction about the bus boycott. Later after the boycott was over that I was shock, but little happy to find out the pamphlets were from ANC under ground structures and the committee of ten which was elected by all organisations was effective and strategic guiding Mdantsane communities on bus boycott and some of them were detained without trail. I was married in 1984 and I was staying with my family at unity 5A in Mdantsane.
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Autobiography of Thobile Maso©Tobile Maso 2007
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Poems of Thobile Maso..........a selection