Aske’dh’im I if he was com­ing down with some­thing or if was he cold. He told me that peo­ple were dy­ing at Marikana

CityPress - - News -

The mo­ment Nom­bulelo Nqon­gophele re­alised her hus­band had died in Marikana, she de­cided to fol­low him. She drank half a bot­tle of pes­ti­cide at her home in El­liot­dale, Eastern Cape.

On Fri­day, she sat on the kop­pie where her hus­band was shot by po­lice – the same spot where he died of a bullet wound to the head.

“I try to avoid pass­ing here be­cause the mem­o­ries are painful. I’ve never been here by my­self. The last time was when the com­mis­sion was con­duct­ing the in­spec­tions,” she said.

She stares into the dis­tance near Nka­neng where her hus­band, Bongani (31), was killed with 16 other min­ers on the kop­pie. Be­hind her lies Scene 2, where po­lice hunted down and killed 17 other min­ers as they hid be­tween bushes and be­hind rocks.

“The wound is still very real, as if it just hap­pened yesterday,” she said.

Hav­ing been mar­ried to Bongani for four years, Nom­bulelo re­mem­bers how, in the days lead­ing up to the mas­sacre, her hus­band called her in the morn­ings be­fore go­ing to the kop­pie and again late at night when he re­turned to his shack in Nka­neng.

“He told me they were on strike for a liv­ing wage. The last time I spoke to him was on Wed­nes­day morn­ing,” she said.

“He sounded dif­fer­ent on the phone, as if he was shiv­er­ing or cold. I asked him if he was com­ing down with some­thing or if he was cold. He told me peo­ple were dy­ing at Marikana. He said it was re­ally bad there. He was scared.”

Nom­bulelo begged her hus­band to re­turn to El­liot­dale, but he told her that sol­diers died in war.

“That was the last thing he said to me. That evening, he didn’t call as usual. When I tried to call him, his phone was off.”

That Thurs­day, her sis­ter-in-law, Khany­isa, kept call­ing her to ask if she had spo­ken to her hus­band be­cause no one could reach him.

As po­lice were erect­ing their barbed wire bar­ri­cade at Marikana just be­fore 4pm, Nom­bulelo was walk­ing to the river to do her fam­ily’s laun­dry. She wanted to keep her mind oc­cu­pied and not worry about her hus­band. As the first volley wiped out 17 lives, she was still at the river. By the time she ar­rived home with wet clothes in her plas­tic wash­ing basin, he was long dead.

Her sis­ter-in-law again called to find out if she had heard any news.

“Khany­isa said she had heard that min­ers had been shot dead in Marikana, but no one knew if my hus­band was there. My mother-in­law told me to go and bath in the other house.”

As she poured wa­ter into a wash­ing basin, she heard screams from the main house.

“I knew at that time my hus­band was one of those who had died at the mine.”

She re­mem­bers hold­ing on to the counter, but her knees were buck­ling. She slipped to the floor and wept.

“I couldn’t live with­out him; I knew that. I knew he was dead and I wanted to fol­low him.” She grabbed the pes­ti­cide bot­tle that was un­der the bed and drank from it. Her fam­ily rushed her to the doc­tor and for days she didn’t want to eat, or see any­one.

“I miss him ev­ery day and it is harder now that I have to work here where he worked and took his last breath.”

Nom­bulelo now works for Lon­min as a cleaner. Her seven-year-old daugh­ter from Bongani is be­ing cared for by her grand­par­ents.

“Bongani was such a great hus­band and fa­ther. He loved me be­fore I even met him. He saw my pic­ture and knew we had to be to­gether – and noth­ing but death could tear us apart,” she said.

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