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Diepsloot man on his award winning community work

2019-05-17 16:05
Moses Lehloka (PHOTO: Drum)
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.”