Peer Keeps Children Off The Streets Through Song And Dance

Peer Mkhonto is an extraordinary man who has risen from his own hard beginnings to help other children in need. Today, he is in charge of a well-trained group of traditional dancers who regularly perform ceremonies in the Kruger National Park, and have even travelled overseas. His vision has given hope to many orphans, as well as a better future.

Peer was born on 12 December 1963 on a farm on the Sabie Road near Casa Do Sol. His name comes from the Afrikaans word peer' meaning pear and was given to him by his mother's employer. She gave him this name because his mother was very fond of pears and always asked the 'madam' to get her some from town.

Peer grew up on this farm and went to school until standard two (grade four) when his mother's employer moved to Pretoria and she could not keep him in school. Because his mother was sickly, he had start working in gardens to earn money. He worked in the garden of a teacher who sent him to school until standard four (grade six). When the teacher moved away he once again left school after standard five grade seven) to go to work.

Peer never knew his father until he was 21. He is the youngest of four children; two boys and two girls. His brother had taxis and asked him to work with him. He started by washing the vehicles until they gave him a job as queue marshal. It was here that he learned to drive by parking and moving the taxis around. His tutors at this time were Sifundza, Michael and Steve. They urged him to get his licence and after nine years he became a driver in 1988. In 1995 he bought his own taxi and started his current business.

It was through this business that Peer started the Ronaldsey Youth Cultural Traditional Dancers (RYCTD). While working as a taxi driver during the taxi wars of 1995-1998, Peer saw how orphaned street children were used to commit crimes by taxi drivers and associations. He realised that these children had no other option and would do anything to earn money to stay alive. After the taxi wars ended in 1999, he gathered a group of these children together and gave them an opportunity in life.

At home Peer is assisted by his wife and daughter who do the cooking and look after the wellbeing of the children. The children help with tasks around the house and also form part of the committee that runs the group's business.

Peer says it is a difficult task feeding so many mouths and also clothing them, especially with school uniforms. The group plans in future to grow their own vegetable garden, both for food and income. They also plan on buying a vehicle for transport and establishing their own Youth Centre. In 2002, they represented South Africa in India and were accompanied there by the former MEC for Sports Arts and Culture, Machuni Siminya.

By Pieter Strauss

Kruger National Park - South African Safari