It was about the year 1965 and I was a naughty little urchin in the Nzhelele area of Limpopo.
A much older man, Avhapfani, had a sleeping disorder and would fall asleep even while standing.
One day, two late friends of mine and I started teasing him about his disability.
This angered him so much that he went to wait for us on the road home. When he pounced, he caught the loudest teaser – me – and gave me a beating.
I escaped with him right behind me and ran into the road in front of an oncoming Taunus kombi and stood in the middle of the road, waving my hands and crying.
I knew the driver, Joel Mulaudzi, would never run me over; that he would protect me.
Indeed he stopped and I blurted out that I needed to be saved from getting killed. Avhapfani arrived and explained the situation.
The old man spoke to him:“Ndi khou mu humbelela pfarelo, a nga si tsha dovha [I plead for forgiveness on his behalf, he will never do it again].”
All the time I was nodding and Avhapfani agreed. Mulaudzi had saved me.
Everyone knew Mulaudzi, he was the only person who ran a taxi service in the area going to town.
He was always humble and kind and helpful. That is why I had no doubt that my luck would hold when I saw his taxi coming.
Mulaudzi died on Tuesday.
According to his ID book, he was 96 years old, but that was because his uncle had decided that when he went to school he should use the date of the uncle’s marriage as his birth date because his birth had not been recorded.
In the obituary, which he wrote himself some time back, he says he remembers walking with his mother to the wedding. This put him closer to 100 or older.
But you could never tell his age because Mulaudzi was an energetic man who liked doing things himself.
He loved education even from youth, when he attended a school where the teacher would just give them work to do and go to a nearby shebeen to drink.
He asked for a transfer and ended up attending a vocational school in Levubu, where he learnt shoe repair, building, general mechanics, carpentry and thatching.
Mulaudzi was such a trustworthy student that the school helped him get a driver’s licence in 1943, which he used until his passing.
His death represents the end of an era for the first black transport owners in the area, an era that gave us the likes of Fanie Denga Mabirimisa, Jim Lukoto, the Phadziri brothers and Tshikororo.
These were pioneers who sometimes used rickety vehicles to ensure the movement of people.
Mulaudzi worked in Johannesburg, where he bought his first vehicle and applied for a permit to transport people from Johannesburg to the north. One of those vehicles was the Taunus he was driving that day he saved me.
In his obituary, he tells the story of living in Alexandra township during the time of the Msomi Gang, and that one gang member lived in the same yard as him.
“One day I was chased by the Msomi Gang and drove straight in front of a Putco bus. The bus overturned trying to avoid me and, trembling, I drove to the police station and just sat outside. Later, a policeman came and asked me to switch off the car because it had been idling for a long time. I hadn’t even realised this. When I eventually got home, I packed my things and left.”
He went home to the north and started running local taxis.
When the volumes increased, he bought a bus, known then as Mafukani Bus Service, which went over steep mountains from the area near Siloam in Nzhelele to places beyond Ha Khakhu and ending at Mafukani.
With no government help to create and maintain the road, Mulaudzi hired locals in those areas that the bus serviced to make the road with hand-held tools, paying them with amounts of salt.
The buses and taxis have become a big business today, with a fleet of buses now called Mulaudzi Bus Service.
Mulaudzi was a true community man and helped build a number of schools back when black education was not a priority for government. He also paid for the schooling of many promising students.
A deeply religious man, he was bishop of the New Covenant Church of Christ and Apostolic until 2013, when he retired.
His wife, Naomi, a life and business partner, died years ago.
Mulaudzi leaves four of seven children and was buried at Mandala Cemetery on Saturday morning.