Invaluable lessons in life from my dear Uncle Lukas

Each time I make contact with my uncle, Lukas Masilela, memories flood back of how he terrified me into the classroom, when yours truly attempted to drop out of primary school.

Uncle Lukas convened a family meeting, the proceedings of which I was able to follow while hiding behind the branches of a berry tree outside our house in Mabopane, north of Pretoria.

On the agenda was one little Johnny who had lost interest in his schooling.

There he was. Uncle Lukas pacing up and down the sitting room floor, demonstrating with the movement of his fingers how the delinquent deserved to be spanked “until the tears run dry”.

Knowing Uncle Lukas and his obsession with the sjambok, the next day I was the first to arrive at the main gate into our school.

Uncle Lukas is an old man now, but from time to time he still helps out at a truck fleet company in Bronkhorstspruit, Mpumalanga.

The bus or taxi is still Uncle Lukas’s favourite mode of transport, even after he had purchased a bakkie in perfect condition.

Always dressed in suit and tie, with stylish hat over greying hair, he still carries his briefcase and knobkerrie to the bus stop or taxi rank in the early hours of the morning to travel to Bronkhorstspruit where he works as a truck driver.

Blind loyalty to the employer and a strong work ethic are fundamental principles in Uncle Lukas’s world view. Like my late grandfather before him, Uncle Lukas is of the view that men need to work with their hands, and he sets an example on the family farm in Klippan, north of Pretoria.

Here Uncle Lukas has grown a lovely orchard, a vegetable patch, and he also keeps hens and roosters.

During my recent visit to Uncle Lukas, he was at work washing his bakkie. He bemoaned the fact that younger people were in the bad habit of job hopping.

How could the employer trust one who moves from one job to the other? And how does someone like that work his way up in the company, and become a foreman, like Uncle Lukas had been at the railways for so many years?

With these words of advice, Uncle Lukas completed the task of polishing the wheels of his bakkie. He then kicked the engine into life and drove the vehicle into the garage.

Uncle Lukas re-emerged from the garage pushing a bicycle, with a carrier on the back and front. He then excused himself, and rode on his bicycle towards Mabopane to purchase household necessities.

For, in the gospel of Uncle Lukas, a man must be aware of the rising cost of fuel.

Johnny Masilela is a journalist and author

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