Entrepreneurial parents

My father, Esrom Absalom Sibanyoni was born in 1939 in the farms; he was born to maMqubane and Willie Sibanyoni. My grandfather Sibanyoni was a preacher and he would travel the land preaching the gospel of Christ. There is not much I know about my grandmother. We are Swatis by the clan name; we were raised in BaSotho land called Warden.

My father is the first born in his family and has 7 siblings of which 5 are late.

We speak IsiZulu predominantly and SeSotho and English

My mother was born in 1950 in the farms of Heritage next to Harrismith. Her parents, maDuma and Khumalo were born in Zakheni in Ladysmith. My mother lost her father whilst she was small, and her mother also passed on early in her life. My mother started working for the farm owners at the age of 14 -16 in the kitchen as a domestic worker. She was 16 when she met my father and was 19 when they had their first child together.

At the age of 19, my mother eloped to be with my father, she would return in 1970 with two kids and have their white wedding.

My father started his own brick making business at the age of 16 in 1955. This form of brick making uses clay soil, sand and rocher to produce two types of bricks, klenker and rooi stene.

They loved each other so much, supported each other and started a beautiful family together. My father was a well-known brick maker amongst the people of the Eastern Free State and commanded such respect amongst the white farmers and people alike. In 1969 my brother was born, 1970 my sister was born, 1985 my brother was born, 1976 my brother was born, 1981 my sister was born, 1982 my brother was born, 1983 I was born and in 1988 my younger sister was brought.

I remember specifically the days around naagmall in my community that the farmers called u Mahashi and no Makhabishi would have a lot of loud conversations filled with laughter. I have on many occasions opened our door at home to see a tall white man in short with beard come in looking for my father. This would many times be followed by my father walking out into the van of the white man and off they drive. On his return my father always had cash. So I knew that what he was doing was rewarding.

Each and every white man was referred to as baas, it differs from time to time as mostly it was baaas, but I would hear sometimes klein bass on kids and the ones who looked younger

As I grew older, I enjoyed the long walks we would take after school and on weekends to my father’s work place. The distance included going over some valleys which seemed so big and scary to me then. My father would later in the years relocate his working place closer to home. This I believe was due to the change in ownership of the land he was currently working on.

My father used to pay attention to change of season, the meaning behind the moon and how that will affect his stock. He would on several occasions wake up in the middle on the night to go place sails over his stock to protect it from rain. My siblings and I have on a few occasions accompanied him to cover the bricks on a rainy night, these just used to be fun moments for me. I also remember when he was ready to make the oondt, we would team up and go after school to help pack the bricks, obviously my elder brothers would be doing the work and I would be hopping here and there. It was great fun to play with the clay and build little houses and babies, to run after the donkey which was used to turn the mixer. I have beautiful memories from this time of our life.

Over the years my father would enter into agreements to sell different commodities, we would sell potatoes and at that time the bag of potatoes was from R3, 50. We would have the whole shack filled with potatoes, my brothers would have very little room to manouver in their bedroom.  We would take a few bags and sit by the taxi rank, I guess now I understand that the people coming from work were our target market, the potatoes were doing well and life was good. The interesting thing with selling any food item is that we knew that if we selling potatoes, then we will be eating potatoes the whole entire time. My ever so creative mother, would do chips and next day do mash potatoes and the following day we would have potato soup, which was basically boiled potatoes, without oil at times, with salt mixed a little flour to make it nice and soft. I believe this is where the saying came from my father, reja papa ka papa.

We sold sugar beans at some point and boy owh boy did I have fun selling beans. The bean sack had a very nice feeling when you sitting on top of them, I liked the squesshy feeling as I glide on the sack and also there was more fun if one had a hole in it. I would play with the bean sack until the hole is bigger, I would fill the floor and play ukushiphiriza over the beans, those were the days I tell you. People used to come over with camfruit to buy , I don’t recall how much they were selling for but we had a good business. My younger sister loves sugar beans to date, I sometimes wonder if this season of her life is not to blame for passion for sugar beans.

We owned cattle during the early days of settling in the township and part of our afternoon tasks was to make sure that we take care of the cattle by feeding cabbage leaves and all the pap and other left over food items.  I remember at some point we lost two cows and my dad and brothers had to go on a search for the cows. My mom tell a story that when she got married, her mother gave her one cow and the cows we now had were as a result of that female cow breeding and expanding itself. I thought this was a wonderful gift that her mother gave her.

We named our cows and my mother’s favourite cow was bleskop, this cow could smell my mom coming and it would show jubilance and excitement. We related with all the cows to such an extent that when one of them was slaughtered, none of us would be able to eat the meat because they just felt like family, so we could not bring ourselves to eat the meat, my parents would slaughter and sell to the community. I learned my whistling skills from the walks I took with the cattle in most afternoons; I never got a chance to ukusenga because I was still small and afraid of getting kicked by the cows. So my father and elder brothers would do ukusenga and bring us milk on a daily basis. My mom loved keeping some of the milk until it was sour to make amasi, this is by far my most favourite meal.


Our neighbour opened a spaza shop and he was selling groceries and vegetables. A significant part of the green leaves we used for our cattle came from his shop. He used to travel to the Johannesburg Fresh Market on a monthly basis to stock up on all kinds vegetables and sell them to our community.

I believe that is where the fascination about Johannesburg came  from, remembering those days, we did not have television, our radio was barely reliable, so we had a lot of stories about the city of gold, the lights the traffic from our neighbours. I remember that very first imagination of a person’s inability to drive was always constant to the expression he used of how the bridges in Johannesburg were confusing, how taking a wrong turn can lead you very far from your intended destination.

I did from time to time also assist in the neighbour’s shop by offloading the vegetables, packaging and cleaning up the shop area. In the very early years of my life I kept a very consistent character and personality, I was very reserved, very reliable and I was the go to person to keep cash for the family and neighbours. My other neighbour used to ask that I come clean her house on every weekend and she would pay me R 2 for every Saturday spent in her house. I used to enjoy this very much as cleaning and maintaining order were things that came natural to me. It was this same neighbour who a black tv set and would ask us to pay anything from 2 cents to 5 cents to watch our favourite tv stories.

A habit that I would only keep doing for a very short time.

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