Those of you who having following my blog for some time will know the story of Witness Khumalo. For the new readers, and the older one's who forget, here's a link to some of my stuff posted on Witness.
Anyway, for the past few months he's really been getting"old". It's a dumb statement as he was 71 yrs old anyway, but till then was still strong and active, and got the work done. But he was slowing down, and I found him often just sitting there in the garden, resting. I didn't say anything as I knew he was not too well, and was happy to pay him just for turning up anyway.
Then, when he couldn't come in cause he was not well, or it was raining, he would use his neighbors cellphone to let me know he wouldn't make it, and i would drive down to his place of residence, and pay him anyway. He had no other form of income, and I knew if I didn't help out, he would have no food for the week.
By the ens of September I went to see him again. He was not too well, complained of his chest. So I decided that I would put him on pension. I discussed it with him, and he appreciated that he would get paid every month, but didn't have to come work. I paid him a bit more than he would have got if he did come in, and left. Oh, I had also taken down a couple of grocety products, just in case he didn't have any at the time. I gave Sara, his neighbour with the cellphone ZAR10 for airtime for her cellphone. That way I knew if he needed to call me for anything, she would let him. He was looking quite weak, and thinner.....
End of October, I again went down there, and paid him his pension. He was still complaining about his chest. I asked if he had been to the clinic, and he said he had. Gave Sara another ZAR10 for the airtime.
End of November, I went down the Friday instead of the Saturday, (as we had arranged) as I would not be able to go Saturday. He was at the clinic. I left the pension money with his common law wife, had a chat with Sara, gave her ZAR10 for aitrtime, and asked her to ensure that Witness got his money from his "wife". I also asked her to tell him I would be back before Xmas, with his Xmas Hamper, something I had given him every year since he started to work for me.
He called a few days later to say he had got the money, and thanx, and that if I came through with the hamper, to leave it with Sara. (Not sure why not with his "wife", but I didn't ask.)
Thursday, 10th December, 2009. I get a call from a lady called Nomsa. She does care work for the church she says, and is calling to tell me that Witness was admitted to the Helen Joseph Hospital. Didn't say why / what for. I said I would go and see him soon.
Friday, 11th December, 2009. I'm at the client early (6.20am), and get through a couple of meetings, before I need to go to the office. On the way I go via the hospital. It's a small detour so no problem. On my arrival, about 12.15 midday, I get pointed to the East wing. It's about a 300 meter walk! This hospital was an apartheid construction, and was first world. It now resembles any other unkept hospital in any other 3rd world country. Anyway, I get a security guard who tells me where to find Witness, but says I can't go see him. It's not visiting hours. Yea right I say. I am his empployer, and I came away from the office to see him, and I cant come back betwee 3 + 4. So he calls upstairs, ward 23. On Duty sister says send him up.
I get there, tell the story of being the employer, and they show me to his room.
Well, to say I was shocked is an understatement. make no mistake, the hospital room was clean, well kept, the bedding looked fine, the windows were clean. In fact, surprisingly well looked after.
Witness, on the other hand, had, in 2 months since I had seen him, been reduced to a very, very sick person. His upper leg was as thick as my wrist! Yup, I felt it through his pyjamas, and it was just the bone, covered in skin. He looked terrible. I spent about 10 minutes with him. When I spoke he recognised me, and made an attempt to respond, but he was not well at all. Asking the sister what was going on all I kept getting was "We cannot disclose", so I have no idea if he had cancer, TB, AIDS, or was just starved. I discussed this with her, and she said no, he was not starved, but very sick.
On asking him about his chest, he said it was still sore. Overall, I don't think he was completely aware, but he did know I was there, and when I said I would see him again soon, he just nodded.
I wont get to see Witness again, not soon anyway. This morning at 6.15 am I got a call from Sara, to say that he had passed away yesterday at about 3pm. Quite posssibly I was the last person to visit him.
Rest in peace Witness, Hamba Kaya. You are the last of the Zulu Warriors, and kept your pride to the end. And, thank you.
PS - The ANC as a political party, as the ruling party in government, and most specificaly the Department of Home Affairs let you down. So badly. Not even having a Zulu as president made any difference. They may not have given you an new ID document, they may not have reinstated your State pension, but you were always better than them, and showed them you could. The sad part, for you, but the blessing for me, was that you had to be supported in the end, by a Mulungu! Just glad I could.