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Farewell Baba Mlaba

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Farewell Baba Mlaba
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WOW – 50 years of service to the Kloof community – Eric Mlaba

I don’t think there are many people who can claim that they have worked at the same place for 50 years. In fact when I googled this, Google told me that the average person has 12 jobs in their lifetime – moving jobs every 4.5 to 5 years. This April, Sipho Eric Mlaba celebrates 50 years of working at Thrive (previously National Road Pharmacy). From the humble beginnings of National Road Pharmacy, employed by Mr Gerard Viger in April 1971, through many changes over the years to April 2021 and Thrive, and Eric Mlaba, has certainly witnessed his share of changes in both the pharmacy and Kloof community. Mr Viger had this to say:

“Eric Mlaba “good and faithful servant” this really applies to Eric for his long standing service, devotion and sharing the years of your life as a member of Thrive (formerly National Road Pharmacy). It is for me a great honour, to say thank you – jabonga – for the last 50 years of service, not only to the pharmacy, but to the community of Kloof and it’s environs. You have known many customers over the 50 years and have the privilege of knowing their children and grand children and you must know all the households in the entire area!

In 1972 I was looking for a delivery boy when Eric, a very slim and young man, approached me for the position. At the time he was a gardener employed by the late Keith Catto, then headmaster of Kloof Primary School. On interviewing Eric he could barely ride a bicycle but I took a chance and employed him. All our deliveries were then done on the bicycle.

With time I upgraded our delivery service by buying two vespas, the problem now arose that Eric had no idea of how to handle the Vespa, so every weekend our front lawn was a teaching ground to guide him in attaining his license, which he achieved on the first test. He and the late Raymond Mkize were my mobile delivery service. In time they both graduated to 125cc motor bikes and eventually 250cc until Raymond broke his leg in an accident and Eric was now solo. Raymond became a packer and both he and Eric learned to mark and pack stock and became an integral part of the pharmacy.

When Jane Swemmer bought the business she taught him to drive a car and so the system of deliveries progressed.

It was with great sadness that Eric lost his beloved wife Flora from the Covid virus in January 2021 and sadly she would not be there to share his well earned retirement.

Jabonga mfetu for not only having worked for me for 39 years but for always being reliable, honest and a good friend. I still cherish your annual birthday phone call and although now old, I remember your day, and am able to reciprocate the wishes on your birthday. My wish for you is that you may enjoy the years you are blessed with and am sure your children will enjoy having more time with Baba.

Remember me in your prayers.
Baba Gerard Viger”

Eric’s tenure through the years could be measured by the different vehicles he has driven. From a motorbike in Mr V’s days to When Jane took over the pharmacy in 1998, Eric was sighted often in his bright yellow Citi Golf delivering around Kloof. When I bought the pharmacy from Jane in 2005, he upgraded to a white Citi Golf which he subsequently bought from the business and still uses as his personal vehicle, then through two different white Tazz vehicles and finally our Thrive bakkie.

Eric is a much-loved member of staff and our community. Often I would wonder why Eric was taking so long on deliveries until I discovered that he was having tea with many of our elderly customers who loved his company and friendly smile. Lately we haven’t been able to enjoy seeing Eric’s smile behind his mask, but we still get to see the twinkle in his eye. As he retires at the end of this month after 50 years of service, we invite you to join him for a cup of tea and wish him well.

The THRIVE team salutes you Baba and thank you for your many years of service to our very special Kloof community. We wish you rest and happiness and hope that you enjoy many happy years with your family.

Hamba Kahle Baba Mlaba