It was the summer of 1969.
Already thousands of flies from the nearby gutters of the native miners’ compound and the unhealthily close sewerage works had gathered for their daily ritual.
The sound of the swarm, which reached its peak now in February, almost drowned out the distant whine of the mine headgear.
After only two hours in the hot, early-morning African sun, the sickly-sweet smell of flesh beginning to decay gave a clue to its nature.
Their black, green-blue and purple bodies reflected little of the blinding sunlight as they wriggled for better positions. This was before vomiting their digestive juices teeming with bacteria on to the oozing flesh and then consuming their putrid meal. Others, now satisfied, injected their eggs into the new host before moving on.
Congealing blood, some of it escaping the flies, slid slowly down the fence post that had been specially planted at the main entrance to the compound. At its base, carnivorous red ants emerged from their nest, fighting each other, with the odd stray fly for rich protein. Sometimes they consumed others from their army as they quickly became covered in a sticky coat of plasma.
To the white mine workers at the Scallyclare Colliery in the coal-rich region of Northern Natal, this revolting scene typified the vulgar and barbaric nature of the native work force. But, to the spans of underground black labourers, this gory morass of decaying ox innards (still warm from the trading store butchery where the animal had been slaughtered just before sunrise), it represented a great prize.
It was an incentive that drove the Zulu, Xhosa, Sotho and Swazi miners to higher productivity levels as they sweated deep within the bowels of the earth: To be the first to meet their quota and claim their reward - this flies’ feast that hung waiting in the hot African Sun.