A man and his bicycle


What kind of guy rides a green bicycle with 12 red lights; a radio; two silver head lamps; two motor car side mirrors; a big yellow car hooter: an orange light; three rubber flaps; two yellow lights; two green lights; a blue light: another orange light: an aerial with an orange flag at the end; another red light; another little blue flag; a black and red saddle bag; a black pump; a carrier with three lights: another four flags (yellow, blue, red and green); another three rubber flaps; another yellow light; a bicycle stand; and little pieces of metal joining the spokes?


His name is Johannes Buthelezi and he comes from Vryheid. He was born 34 years ago.

Like so many other children, he came from a poor family. His parents had nine children to feed.


They did not have money to send Johannes to school. Johannes did not spend one day at schooI.

The young Johannes worked as a herdboy. He looked after cattle and sheep. He worked hard. He walked many miles every day.


When Johannes finished work each day, he played with his friends in the early evening. They played a lot of football. They hunted small animals. And they fought with sticks at the river.

But Johannes liked to play one game best of all. He liked to play the clever mechanic from Jo’burg. He fixed old bicycles from all over the place. And when he fixed the bicycles, he never charged anybody. He only asked for a ride.


He loved those rides. He loved the fresh wind to touch his face. He loved to ride somewhere and suddenly change his mind – and then ride somewhere else.


Johannes wished for his own bicycle. But his parents did not have money. Johannes only got one kind of bicycle – the toy bicycles he made from pieces of wire.


When Johannes was 20 years old, he knew he must now help his parents. So he packed a small suitcase. And he went to find a job in Johannesburg.


Johannes went to stay with an old friend in Alexandra Township. His friend is Mr Thwala. Mr Thwala showed Johannes the ways of the big city. And he helped Johannes to find a job.

Johannes got a job at a factory. The factory makes switches, plugs and other electric things. The job was new to Johannes. And Johannes had another problem. He only knew two words in English. All he could say was ‘Yes Baas!’.


But Johannes learnt fast. He learnt how to work with five different machines. And he also learnt how to fix broken machines.


“I’ve never been to school,” says Johannes. “I can’t even read or write but I help people who have been to school. I’ve got a mind to think even if I can’t read or write. I can do a lot of things because I’m a man like other men. “


Johannes worked very hard. He sent money home to his family. After six years in Johannesburg he decided to buy himself a present. He decided to buy himself a bicycle.


So Johannes went to a bicycle shop and bought a bicycle. He put the bicycle next to his bed that night. And he didn’t sleep. He now owned his own bicycle. He felt very proud.


Johannes wanted the whole world to see his bicycle. He put some bright lights in the front – he knew all about lights from the factory. He put on a mirror. And then he put on a flag. And he put this on and he put that on. He hasn’t stopped.


Now when Johannes drives home from work, the world sees his bicycle. He drives through the streets slowly. He blows his car hooter again and again. The people wave at the man on the rainbow bicycle. And the children run after him. The people of Alexandra know when Johannes Buthelezi is on his way home.


Now Johannes wants to get married. “I’ve had enough of many girlfriends who come to ask for this today and something else tomorrow. The woman who marries Johannes will be lucky. He is a good, honest man. Ask anybody in Alex!

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