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Man from Mpumalanga who transported union leaders during battle wants to be reunited with Mantashe

Like all he’s ever owned, Dan Kganane’s most prized possession is a worn-out sedan falling hopelessly into disrepair in his yard; but he has every reason to hold onto this piece of scrap metal.

The 1983 Toyota Corolla, now a useless rat shelter, is of great value to the retired miner and writes him in the history of the National Union of Miners (NUM.).

As the only worker with a car at the Matla Colliery in Witbank at the time, Kganane, 63, came to the fore among the union’s formative leaders, including current Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy Gwede Mantashe. He reminisced about transporting the young fiery leaders to and from meetings that rarely ended before midnight because he evaded the apartheid police.

“That was my worst nightmare. Even today I wonder how I dodged all those roadblocks. I was happy to drive them, but I was always afraid of arrest,” Kganane said.

The car, which had never given him any problems since he bought it new in 1983, broke down in 2008, the same year that Kganane retired to his home village.

Dan Kganane
Dan Kganane’s 1981 Toyota Corolla at his home in Leroro, Mpumalanga, February 4, 2022. Photo: Jacques Nelles

“I bought the car in Hillbrow, Johannesburg and it was my first car. I think I paid an installment of R500. It was the monster of the road in its day and very popular, so I became famous myself,” he said.

The Saturday Citizen visited the humble, gentle man in Leroro, a village in the Thaba Chweu community, about four and a half hours from Johannesburg.

The village is part of the Panorama Route, the scenic escarpment of Mpumalanga Province that includes the Blyde River Canyon, the third largest in the world, in the Ehlanzeni District.

“All they did was put gasoline in the car. There was no payment arrangement for my services and I didn’t mind being a member so I also benefited from the meetings,” Kganane said.

Dan Kganane
Dan Kganane’s 1981 Toyota Corolla at his home in Leroro, Mpumalanga, February 4, 2022. Photo: Jacques Nelles

He was never allowed in the meetings, so he waited in the car, usually until the early hours of the next day. Sitting behind the now battered wheel, he remembers the intense political discussions between his smart, disciplined and brave passengers.

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He points to the front passenger seat and says this is where union leaders Emanuel Masita (Chairman of the Bantam Branch) and the back seat where Mantashe (Chairman of the Witbank Branch) as well as the late Crosby Moni (Vice-Chairman of Witbank) sat during the to travel.

Kganane said he met Mantashe in 1982 when he worked at Matla Colliery and was his driver until 1984, with Mantashe being elected regional secretary of the NUM the following year. Between 1988 and 1993, Mantashe was the national organizer and regional coordinator of the NUM between 1993 and 1994.

“He was a brave, fearless leader and selfless,” he said.

“Those guys barely slept and played a key role in improving the lives and working conditions of miners. It does not surprise me that he is now a minister.”

Kganane has two other cars, a Nissan 1400 bakkie and a one-ton bakkie that he bought when he retired to run a small business, but they have all broken down. He tried to put the Toyota Corolla’s engine in the one-tonne bakkie to get going, but couldn’t. Kganane’s greatest wish is to be reunited with Mantashe.

He said he tried several times to call his office, but was always told the minister was busy. “Every time I see him on television, I wish I could talk to him and reminisce as old comrades.

“He has to come and see the car I drove them in. Who knows, maybe my old comrade Mantashe can help me fix these scraps,” he said.

Dan Kganane
Dan Kganane and his 1981 Toyota Corolla at his home in Leroro, Mpumalanga, February 4, 2022. Photo: Jacques Nelles

When asked if he was taking the leaders somewhere other than meetings, Kganane said the union leaders had no time for anything other than union work. Mantashe’s spokesman, Nathi Shabangu, could not confirm or deny Kganane’s story, but Sam Kgokolo, then secretary of NUM’s Bantam Department, confirmed it.

“I remember him very well. He did use his car to transport leaders to meetings in Witbank. “Usually he would transfer Masita, Mantashe, Moni and others.

“I did not attend any meetings at the time because I had to man the branch office,” he said. Kgokolo, 80, retired to his hometown of Lebowakgomo, Limpopo in 2006.

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