Wealth of knowledge lost in death

2015-05-06 06:00
THE late Afrika Kolisang (101), one of the longest-surviving people who saw the birth of the Free State’s goldfields – the formation of the two towns of Welkom and Virginia following the discovery of gold. 
Photo: Teboho Setena

THE late Afrika Kolisang (101), one of the longest-surviving people who saw the birth of the Free State’s goldfields – the formation of the two towns of Welkom and Virginia following the discovery of gold. Photo: Teboho Setena

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TUESDAY, 27 April, marked the end of an era when Afrika Kolisang died after an illness. He was one of the centenarians who survived two World Wars – the First World War that began in Europe on 28 July 1914 and lasted until November 1918, and the Second World War, fought from 1939 to 1945.

Kolisang died at age 101 after succumbing to cancer and will be buried on Saturday (09/05) in Welkom.

The father of five children, he was born on 10 January 1914 in Thaba Nchu, now part of the Mangaung Metro (formerly a town which was then under Bophuthatswana). He was the firstborn in a family of ten siblings.

Kolisang is survived by his youngest brother, Ramohau.

His funeral will be held at the Pentecostal Church in Dr TK Mopeli Street, Thabong, on Saturday (09/05).

Kolisang revealed in an interview with Express Goldfields andamp; NFS held previously that he had been one of the three men who contributed in the construction of the church. The other two men, both late, was Joseph Thakguli and Pitso Molelekoa, father of veteran writer Moeti Molelekoa.

“When you mention that only three men built the church, there is a huge outcry among the members of the congregation, because to them it’s unreal that only three men can actually build a church,” Kolisang had said.

He had explained that growing up in a religious family influenced him to play a significant role in church, including the construction of the very same church where his funeral service will be held.

“I feel happy whenever I pray,” Kolisang had said when asked about his religious background.

The late Kolisang was blessed with five children: three daughters and two sons. The surviving ones are daughters Ketseletso Makoko and Moipone Ditabe, who are both married.

He lived in Thabong since the 1940s. He married in his late 20s.

Kolisang attributed his living such a long time to respect for oneself and others, including one’s parents.

“Respecting your parents and people is one of the rules of God. You should be disciplined. Just like a car, if you don’t service and maintain it, it will never perform and last.”

Kolisang had said he came to settle in Welkom in 1934 at the youthful age of 20. He had arrived way before the mines and the founding of the two gold towns, Welkom and Virginia, after gold mining was started.

Kolisang’s first job experience was to work on the farm of Edward Pienaar, who was one of the farmers in the region. The other farmers included Frikkie Bekker.

“My house was situated at Steyn no. 2 Mine on the farm of Edward Pienaar.”

Kolisang had said the region was more for agriculture, with most farmers planting mabele and maize. He said wheat followed suit during the era of Adolf Hitler, leader of the Nazi party, in World War II.

“The farmers were encouraged to plant wheat for fear of starvation from Adolf Hitler’s World War.”

He also had knowledge about the founding of the now Free State gold capital town, Welkom.

“The first mine was St Helena. Welkom was actually a farm on which geologists settled during their mission to discover gold.

Then farm owner Willem Pienaar insisted that the town be named after his farm. A settlement was laid out on the farm Welkom and officially proclaimed a town in 1948.

It became a municipality from 1960, with Phillip Smith as the chief administrator, Kolisang re-told the history of development in the region.

Odendaalsrus, founded in 1912, was the main town then.

“Everybody would go for shopping with Ventersburg as an alternative town.”

Also a good story-teller, Kolisang worked as an employee of the municipality in the supervision division where he worked together with several men.

One such man was the late security officer Joseph Mmatsa.

“Mmatsa was the tallest man in town and struggled to find the right size of clothes and shoes for him.

“We placed a special order just for him.

“Now, as time went by, people made jokes and references about his situation. If one didn’t want to give something, he would simply say, ‘you’ll get it at Mmatsa’s shoes’. By using that phrase people meant there was no guarantee that you would actually get what you had asked for or wanted. The Sotho translation is: Otla e thola eteng tsa Mmatsa.

“Once someone says this, rest assured that you can’t get that kind of a thing,” Kolisang had explained

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