Diepsloot man on his award winning community work
Moses Lehloka (PHOTO: Drum)
He’s been dubbed the father of every needy child in the impoverished Johannesburg township of Diepsloot and believes each kid deserves a fair chance make it in the world.
But Moses Lehloka isn’t the kind of guy to only talk the talk – he walks the walk too. Which is why he started his workshop, Moss Auto Repairs, to teach boys and girls technical skills that will equip them to get jobs as mechanics one day.
He also tops up the education of kids struggling at school and helps teach them to read or write. The township philanthropist’s efforts haven’t gone unnoticed: earlier this year he won the 1Life Life Changer Award at the DStv Mzansi Viewers’ Choice Awards. It seems there’s no end to the good Bra Moss (46), as he’s affectionately known, does in the area.
He helps pay the school fees for kids whose parents are struggling, makes sure the youngsters are clean and fed and gives them a stipend of R150 a week to share with their families if needed.
We meet the community builder at his workshop outside Diepsloot where he conducts his classes and lives with his children, Duke (22), Dukeskangi (21), Didi (16), Tlotli (12), Ntombi (11) and Bheki (7). Bra Moss considers the youth he mentors his children too. “I have trained 40 kids who have gone out to work and are now professional mechanics working for big companies like the AA, Trojan, Tiger Wheel & Tyre and lots more. Some have started their own families now and are living in nice houses,” he says proudly. “At the moment I have eight kids at the workshop that I’m training and taking to school.”
The workshop has over 20 cars on site, some brought in by customers and some he bought at auction to refurbish and sell. “We sometimes buy old cars and parts and build new cars from scratch, sell them and use the money to pay for school fees and food,” he says Bra Moss is passionate about uplifting the community and loves working with young people.
“It fulfils me,” he says. “My joy is seeing the youth getting off the streets, not doing crime or drugs and contributing positively to our society.” He trains both boys and girls, he adds. “Young women are the future of the mechanic industry.
Being a mechanic doesn’t require manpower or physical strength. It requires mental strength and knowledge. Bra Moss started his workshop in 2002 while unemployed. “I asked a friend of mine who had a workshop to let me start working with young people to create work for myself and others like me,” he recalls. “I would pick up the kids at 7.30am and take them to the workshop and we would teach them how to fix cars.
They became really interested because my teaching methods were different and fun.” Bra Moss started out with four children – three boys and a girl. “In the beginning it was a challenge teaching the boys that anyone can be a mechanic and that it’s not just a job for men.” He doesn’t believe in giving the children handouts but wants them to work for themselves so they can take pride in who they are.
“Some of the children’s parents are alcoholics and some of the kids are drug addicts. We want them to kick their habit and be able to help other addicts in the community,” he says. “Most of the children come from poor families and when we make money, each child gets something to contribute to wards the home and school fees. We also teach them how to budget and create their own invoices,” he says.
He has different modules and at the end of each one he gives his young apprentices practical tests and assessments. “These kids make me so proud,” he says. “My dream is to see them improve Diepsloot.” He was put on Earth to help change lives, Bra Moss believes. “When my mother told me the story of my birth I knew my purpose was more than just to breathe, eat, work and sleep.” He was born in a veld between the villages of Ga Sebati and Lehamataka in Limpopo while his mother, Ntombikayise Khumalo, was on her way to the clinic for a pregnancy check up.
“She was halfway through the field when she started having labour pains – she couldn’t turn back or go forward. A lady by the name of Maria Magata found her and helped her give birth right there. So I have always had two mothers in my life,” he says.
Cars have always been one of Bra Moss’ passions and he loved playing with toy cars his late father, Daniel Lehloka, brought home for him. Bra Moss was nine years old when he started working informally. “I would hang out with the bush mechanics near my house and help them carry spanners and oils and they would pay me.” His parents separated when he was a teenager and when his father left he had to become a man at an early age.
He carried on working as a mechanic part time. While in grade 12, Bra Moss also worked on a construction site to earn extra money. “I hated going to school from grade 10 because I didn’t have the correct school uniform. My mom couldn’t afford it and one of the teachers beat me so badly that I refused to attend class,” he says. “Even today I don’t understand the concept of a uniform.
Children from Diepsloot go to bed without food and teachers worry about the image and uniform,” he says. Bra Moss studied towards his matric from home instead of in the classroom. “Every day for two years I would ask my friend what they learnt at school and then I would go through the text books,” he says. “I would only go to school when I needed to write a test or exam. But I passed because I was deter mined to win.” In 2004 Bra Moss got the opportunity to work as a mechanic in South Korea.
“My workshop wasn’t doing so well so I took my savings and went there hoping to get a job. I found a job within 13 days without a CV or a reference. My passion spoke for me.” He was given a job cleaning engines and slowly worked his way up. “I learnt a lot there. My boss helped me to get a work visa and I stayed for almost a year,” he says.
When Bra Moss returned home he was able to fund the workshop and start teaching kids again. “I made enough money to keep the workshop running again,” he says. “I tell this story to my kids almost every week– that failure is not an option and they need to stay motivated.”