Marikana miners are dying

2014-04-06 14:00

In Marikana, not even the loan sharks want anything to do with striking miners from the platinum belt.

It’s been nearly three months since the strike began and the lenders are not forking out cash to Lonmin’s hard-up employees because they know they’re unlikely to get their money back.

An employee at a loan company said this week: “The last time we gave out loans was in January. Some have paid those loans but there are others who haven’t.

“We call them?–?they aren’t picking up their phones any more and there is nothing we can do about it.

“Look, it’s empty here. I’m the last one working here –?everyone else has been asked to only come back once the strike is over. I might have no job soon. What do we do then?” asked the employee.

The strike’s ripples have spread far beyond the homes and lives of Lonmin’s employees.

The manager of Wonderkop Platinum Cash and Carry, who would only give his first name as Ali, said he had even taken to dropping prices to try and entice people into buying his wares.

Coca-Cola is cheaper now?–?a 1.25 litre bottle costs R8.50 instead of the usual R11. Miners who do come into the store are spending on the bare necessities like cooking oil and mealie meal.

The shop is the main supplier for spaza shops in Wonderkop.

“In the past two weeks, at least five or six spaza shop owners have told us not to order their stock because they have had to close shop,” said Ali.

“We’ve cut down on bulk stock and buy as little perishable food as possible. We can’t be throwing away food while we are experiencing this.”

Ali’s staff have been placed on rotation to make sure everyone is still paid, even though they’re getting lower wages at the moment.

One of the cashiers, who declined to give her name, said she was afraid that if the strike continued she would lose her job. “This strike has affected everyone, not only the miners. Even the taxis are suffering. You will only see a few taxis these days.”

A few metres down the road, her story was borne out by the cross-border taxi drivers playing mrabaraba on a makeshift board under a tree.

They drive miners home to Mozambique, Lesotho, Swaziland, Botswana and back. But their taxis stood empty this week, doors wide open and with no passengers in sight.

None of the eight drivers interviewed had taken a single person across the border in at least two weeks. One, who gave his name only as David, said some drivers had left Marikana because there was no work.

“People have no money to go anywhere. Vaal Maseru [bus service] is the only transport that can afford to take people anywhere using the debt system.

“We can’t afford that because where are the miners going to get the money to pay us back? They will continue to strike until they get what they want and there is nothing we can do,” he said.

Further down the road, Berehun Aboss was leaning against the bright-yellow wall of his spaza shop, chatting on his phone.

Before the strike, Aboss was making about R1?500 a day. By midday on Wednesday he hadn’t made any money. The neighbouring spaza shop shut down two weeks ago. Aboss said he might not be far behind.

Chain stores are faring slightly better. The local Shoprite was abuzz on Wednesday although a local security guard pointed out that government grants had just been paid.

“So all these people you are seeing aren’t spending the mine money, they are spending government money,” he said.

Branch manager Tanja Enslin said they were feeling the pinch. “But because we are a part of a bigger family store, we will be just fine,” she said.

The strike has forced a few businesses to change their tactics. The Lewis furniture store has been empty for weeks, so employees are now walking the streets of Marikana to try to make their next sale.

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