‘The govern­ment has for­got­ten us’

Af­ter two years, an­swers are still in short sup­ply when it comes to the events of a bloody week in Au­gust that left 44 peo­ple dead. Xolani Mban­jwa sits down with some of those left in the wake of the Marikana mas­sacre

CityPress - - News -

The men and women who this week re­vealed their wounds at the Marikana Com­mis­sion of In­quiry say more than their hus­bands, sons and broth­ers died on Au­gust 16 2012. Af­ter the tragedy, min­ing com­pany Lon­min paid for school uni­forms and school fees for chil­dren whose fathers died dur­ing the un­rest, but ex­tended fam­i­lies who re­lied on the min­ers’ pay cheques were left stranded. Six months’ worth of gro­ceries from the SA So­cial Se­cu­rity Agency, gro­ceries in De­cem­ber from Lon­min and a R12 000 do­na­tion to each of the fam­i­lies from the “Bri­tish” also helped – for a while.

The money’s gone but the pain hasn’t. Anele Mdizeni’s fam­ily just wants some­one to take re­spon­si­bil­ity for the 29-year-old’s death. Mdizeni’s older brother, Vuy­isani, works for a mine in Mpumalanga, but his fam­ily says he can’t cope with the re­spon­si­bil­i­ties of car­ing for an ex­tended fam­ily with­out Anele.

Luvo Phato re­mem­bers his older brother fondly.

“He took care of all of us. He paid for the school fees for three of his neph­ews with­out think­ing twice be­cause he loved pro­vid­ing for all of us.

“He was go­ing to have a white wed­ding in De­cem­ber that year, but he wanted to fin­ish his three-roomed house first. His house now stands empty, a con­stant re­minder of what could have been. Lon­min pays for the school­ing of his two chil­dren, but they’re do­ing noth­ing about the neph­ews he took care of.”

Phato is fu­ri­ous with Deputy Pres­i­dent Cyril Ramaphosa, who tes­ti­fied at the com­mis­sion this week. He wanted to know how the politi­cian in­tended to “wipe away our tears”.

“We are not happy with Ramaphosa be­cause we do not be­lieve what he was say­ing. He washes his hands of his role in Marikana and we feel that was very mis­lead­ing.”

Anele’s widow, Unathi, hasn’t been able to at­tend the com­mis­sion. She’s too busy try­ing to keep the wolf from the door and sup­port the cou­ple’s two chil­dren and six neph­ews. Mphumzeni Ngxande’s widow Nonku­l­uleko says her neigh­bours in Ngqe­leni in the Eastern Cape think she’s rich.

“We come and sleep in these ho­tels and eat ho­tel food when we’re at­tend­ing the com­mis­sion, and our neigh­bours back home think we are now well-off be­cause we stay in ho­tels in Gaut­eng. But when we go back home dur­ing the breaks, there’s no room ser­vice. The food cab­i­nets are empty. That’s when re­al­ity hits me again and again. I wish my hus­band had never worked for Lon­min.

“Lon­min only gives us gro­ceries once in De­cem­ber and that is it. Noth­ing else. It is as if we are sup­posed to only eat in De­cem­ber. It is as if Lon­min and the govern­ment don’t know that chil­dren get sick, need cloth­ing other than uni­forms and gen­eral up­keep.”

She gets grants for her two chil­dren but there is no other money. Her chil­dren are in board­ing school. Their fees and uni­forms are paid for by Lon­min. She must find other clothes, toi­letries, ex­tra food – “ba­sic things” – her­self.

She de­scribes her “soc­cer-mad” hus­band as a “quiet person who did not like wrong­do­ing”.

“That is why I don’t un­der­stand when po­lice say they were de­fend­ing them­selves against crim­i­nals.”

PHO­TOS: LEON SADIKI

Nonku­l­uleko Ngxande

Luvo Phato

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