‘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
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.”