Driven by a desire to expose corruption and exploitation in the mining sector, two seasoned South African journalists spent almost a year researching and chronicling the lives of former mineworkers.
The result is their newly launched book Broke and Broken, with the subtitle, The Shameful Legacy of Gold Mining in SA. The authors – Lucas Ledwaba, a freelance journalist and editor, and Leon Sadiki, an award-winning photojournalist – describe more than 100 years of abuse and exploitation across generations of hundreds of thousands of black men who worked underground in the gold mines that built SA’s economy.
Some of the key aspects captured are the retrenchment of mineworkers after being diagnosed with “the same illness, silicosis”.
Ledwaba says when the miners got sick and were unable to work, they were discarded and sent back to their homes in villages where they had nothing to do but wait for death. He believes their tale is an important part of “our history that needs to be told. They say history is the best teacher. So, let’s hope future generations learn from this particular part of history,” says Ledwaba.
Ledwaba says that while “Randlords”, the white men who started and owned the mines, amassed massive wealth for themselves, the black men who toiled were left in poor health, paid very little and had nothing to show for their work.
The role of journalists in society, he says, is to “conscientise” the ignorant, expose the corrupt, the exploiters and to hold those in power accountable. That’s what they aim to achieve through the book, “to say to society, yes, you live in South Africa, which is one of the most developed countries in the world, but do you know at what cost this came about?”.
Tough decisions and sacrifices had to be made to produce Broke and Broken, as the co-authors did not have funds.
“In the initial stages of the project, I had to sell my car to fund our trips to the Eastern Cape. We travelled in my colleague Leon Sadiki’s car, which broke down as a result of the effects of the travel. “Then we applied for funding from the Taco Kuiper Foundation. They eventually extended a generous grant, which was just enough to help cover our costs of travelling and staying in Lesotho and Eastern Cape for a week,” says Ledwaba.
Ledwaba is one of the authors of the book, We are Going to Kill Each Other Today: The Marikana Story, while Sadiki’s images of the shooting were published in the same book. They have worked together at various newspapers.