A 25-year-old Witsie has taken it upon himself to help the children of Marikana make it through school by raising money for their fees.

Eliot Moleba explains his creative freedom.

Dramatic Arts graduate responsible for Marikana school fund

Dramatic Arts graduate responsible for Marikana school fund                   Photo by: Mfuneko Toyana

Dramatic arts graduate Eliot Moleba has started a fund whose proceeds will be invested by Investec and the profits used to subsidise the long-term education of the children of miners killed and injured in last August’s Marikana massacre.

The massacre made headlines around the world when police opened fire on protesting workers, killing 34 miners and injuring more than 70.

Moleba said South Africa’s history of violence against the most vulnerable people in society, which has carried over to the present day, inspired him to found the fund-raising campaign.

“As a theatre student my work tended to focus on social issues; there was always a need to speak back to the people and articulate a sense of history and the present,” Moleba said.

The Marikana Scholarship Fund aims to raise money through donations by putting the story of the children of the miners at the centre of the conversation about Marikana.

“Once the dust settled after the killing of miners, the narrative of women and wives of miners began to emerge but still the story of the kids was marginalised.”

Moleba says it was this story that was not being told that got him thinking.

But merely creating awareness around the children’s situation rang hollow for the man who now freelances in the creative industry and is also a consultant at the Wits Writing Centre.

It was this sense that “art should make a lasting difference in people’s lives” that inspired the idea for a play staged last year, The Man in the Green Jacket, highlighting the politics of what happened in Marikana.

Moleba struggled to identify how he could use his creativity to have a lasting impact. He said he finally realised education was key.

“It’s fucked up that in this country, that for you to ask for a raise, you have to be prepared to lose your life. And for an employer to make a profit, he has to be prepared to take your life,” Moleba said. This is “the reality that has continued from apartheid and must be changed”.

Two weeks ago NGO Education Africa joined the campaign and on Sunday Moleba leaves for Germany, where he will take up a 10-week scholarship that focuses on training those who make theatre for social change.

A visibly excited Moleba remained realistic about the trip and the mammoth task that organising the fund has been.

“Being in Europe I’ll be exposed to a greater market and hopefully this means more donations. It will also be a space to refine my ideas on how to use different media to execute projects.”

Moleba is no slouch in campaigning on media though.    Of the 1000 people a month he interacts with, on Twitter, Facebook, on his blog and in person, he says makes sure he “personally speaks to at least 700 of them”.

And a few weeks ago musician Black Coffee retweeted Moleba’s Twitter campaign and plenty followed soon after. He admits, though, that this does not always translate into real donations.

“I don’t blame people for not donating. It’s their money and it’s up to me to go back and make the product better.”

Moleba seems to thrive on pressure and sees the sacrifices – time and money – as a small price for doing something that personally matters to him.

Moleba’s motto is an interesting variation on a common maxim: “I like biting off more than I can chew; it means there’s always more for me to chew.”

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