Remembering Beauty

The recent passing away of my farm’s former general assistant Beauty Zondi brought home the realities of access to health education and services for farmworkers.

Beauty suffered from high blood pressure and died in September after suffering a stroke. The sadness of it all is that, for more than a year, the other staff members encouraged her to take her blood-pressure medication and not to miss her check ups. But it took only a week of visiting home during the festive season for her to put her medication aside and try alternative remedies.I “inherited” Beauty when I took over KwaMsizi Farm.

She and her husband were the remaining workers from a staff of more than 20 people when the farm was a successful piggery and pork processing enterprise. Beauty always reminisced about those heydays when she tried to encourage me as our ventures floundered. Beauty was there for years as we tried and failed in a number of trial-and-error farming enterprises. I remember the day I wrote her first pay cheque, and she looked at me with fear in her eyes because she was 50 and had never learnt to write her name.

This revelation was followed by an hour of teaching her to write “Beauty” so that she could at least sign her name. I remember the proud smile as she looked at the rows she had written – a record of her improvement as her hand became familiar with the pen and the alphabet.Beauty and I were forever swapping notes about delinquent teenagers, and the headaches our sons caused us.

One of her children was once caught on the wrong side of law and she was asked if he could be released into her care. “I’m not going to take this child home as I can’t ensure he will go back to court,” she said. “He can run fast and I’m an old woman. I suggest that the ones who said children have rights and shouldn’t be punished should take care of him.”  “Who are you referring to?” I asked.“That would be the president and government,” she said. Beauty leaves behind her common-law husband Bethuel, four children and a few grandchildren. May her soul rest in peace.