Olive Close’s Other Side

Lena Smit in Piet Saxon's house. Photos: Linza de Jager

Lena Smit in Piet Saxon’s lounge. Photos: Linza de Jager

Piet Saxon and his brother started a soccer team in Ogieskraal.

Piet Saxon with his soccer trophy.

Some surprises await one in Olive Close – like Lena Smit and Piet Saxon. Lena is a Florence Nightingale figure and Piet started the soccer team the Melkbos Rangers in the Ogieskraal Farm informal settlement years ago.

I visited Lena and Piet on Saturday morning. The development of 100 houses looked happier than when I had been there last. The garbage collector’s bakkie was going from house to house. One man was mowing his law and children were playing in the street. It was a welcome change, because a few days earlier it had looked grim under the wintry skies.

Children playing rugby in Olive Close.

Children playing rugby in Olive Close.

‘I used to work for old Mr. Steyn’
Lena’s pink and red outfit complemented the day. Earlier in the week she had told me about her wish to resume work as a nursing aide, and about her past. Unlike many other residents of Olive Close Lena never lived in the bush. “I used to work for old Mr. Steyn who lived in Beach Road,” she says. “He was a member of parliament in the old days. I slept in. I took his blood pressure, gave him his pills, went with him to the hospital and cooked meals that he, a diabetic, could eat. My daughter (the older one, Miché) and I were treated like family and not like Coloureds.” Lena has kept the testimonial that old Mr. Steyn’s daughter, Tronell, gave her. She wrote that Lena was willing to work 24/7 and that she heartily recommends her.

No heroes
In her neat-as-a-pin lounge Lena talks while two-year-old Anke, who has asthma, sits quietly on her lap. “I like to take care of old people and children. I grew up on a farm in the Paarl. I was one of 12 children. My mother liked to help people and that is how I started to help people.” She looks around her, as if she is outside in the street, and not in her own lounge, and says, “The problem is that Olive Close has no heroes.” “But what about you?” I counter.

The Melkbos Rangers. Piet is on the far right in the back row.

The Melkbos Rangers. Piet is on the far right in the back row.

The story of a soccer team
Across the road from Lena lives Piet Saxon. He started the soccer team the Melkbos Rangers along with his brother, while he lived in the bush.  Those were years during which Piet (now 49) was madly busy. He tells how he extended his wendy house in the bush and how people asked him why he did it. “Because I’m here to live and not to die,” he retorted.

Piet's house in the bush.

Piet’s house in the bush.

About the team he remembers, “We had white, Coloured and Nigerian players. We started with a donation of R500. We got jerseys from Eskom and from my boss. We were registered. The last registration payment was R1700. We kept going for six years.

I used to load the children in my Nissan Sentra or my brother’s Ford Isuzu for games. We played in Cape Town, Langa, we played Ajax’s second team. We beat the Castle League team from Atlantis 2-1.The soccer was one of the reasons why the crime rate went down in Ogieskraal.”

Bennie McCarthy in Melkbos?
He takes out a folder full of documents, and searches for something. It is a front page story that appeared in the Melkbos Nuus/News edition of January 2007, with a headline that asked, “Bennie McCarthy in Melkbos?” The answer remains what it was in those days. Perhaps… One thing has changed, however. The Melkbos Rangers does not exist anymore and Piet has moved on. Nowadays he says he is more involved with the church.

Do you need a nursing assistant? Lena Smit can be contacted on 078 561 5651.



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