Remembering Marikana: The man in the green blanket

2012-09-08 19:12

Mgcineni Noki (34)
Mgcineni from Thwalikhulu in Mqanduli, Eastern Cape, was “The Man in the Green Blanket”.

Mgcineni, although at the time his identity was not known, was a prominent leader known only by the green blanket he wore about his shoulders, He featured prominently in TV footage leading up to the shooting of 34 miners at Marikana.

When the guns fell silent, he was among the dead.

He was affectionately known as “Mambush” and his family say it was no mistake he was chosen by other miners to be their leader. It was an extension of who he was.

“Our parents died a long time ago. My elder brother and his wife had to take care of us, but they also later passed away. Mambush was the father here. He took care of us and this home. We have nothing without him now,” said his sibling Nolufefe Noki.

The 30-year-old miner had been working at Lonmin since 2007.

“He was a driven man who was promoted in a year and received training to become a rock-drill operator,” said his cousin Mbulelo Noki, also one of the striking miners.

“Mgcineni was a very caring young man who never gave the village any problems. He even used to buy his former teachers cold drinks when he was home,” said villager Nowathile Ngcangwe, who went to mourn with the Noki family.

“I want people to know that we are very hurt and broken by what happened. People now think my brother was a violent person.

He wasn’t,” said Nolufefe. “I remember he would be the one who would calm us down and ask that we always keep the peace among us,”
she said.

He was a great Pirates fan and also loved weightlifting. He was married and had a three-year-old child, Asive.

Mbulelo said the last time he saw his cousin was on August 13.

“He was different, I didn’t like the person I saw. We were supposed to go home to our cousin’s funeral, but he didn’t even want to speak about it.

“He was taking his role as the strike leader very seriously,” said Mbulelo.

– Athandiwe Saba


Mongezeleli Ntenetya (34)
As the only breadwinner for 15 people, Mongezeleli was the champion of his family.

At his relatively young age, the rock-drill operator had to provide for his mother, his wife, his three children and his eight younger siblings.

His was the only income for the family home which lies off a gravel road in the village of Nqabarha near Dutywa in Eastern Cape.

He had worked at the mine since the age of 22.

“He was a humble man, who took care of us all,” said Mongezeleli’s wife Nosipho, her eyes bloodshot and swollen from crying.

The family find it hard to even talk of their lost relative.

Mongezeleli’s mother, Nowathile, said her son’s only dream was to educate his siblings.

“He wanted such a better future for his sisters and brothers and they all looked up to him,” she said.

He was not a miner who would return home only once a year.

“He came home as regularly as he could because he wanted to make sure the garden was ploughed and that everything was in order,” added Nosipho.

Orlando, one of his younger brothers, said he did not know what life would be like now that his brother was gone.

“Though my brother didn’t have much, whatever we asked for he would give it to us. He was a kind man, a big man who loved making everyone laugh. But right now none of us at home can really talk about it. It hurts,” he said.

– Athandiwe Saba


Anele Mdizeni (29)
Anele from Cwede near Elliotdale in the Eastern Cape had an upbringing where laughter was treasured.

After his death, the family gathered in a rondavel lit with a single candle, made jokes and decided to remember only the good times they enjoyed with him in his short life.

Anele grew up in Cwede and started working at the mine at the age of 22.

His brother, Vuyisani, remembers Anele as a talkative young man who went out of his way to make people laugh.

“We would be in stitches all day. We’d go hungry because of laughter. When he saw his jokes had made us hungry, he would dig into his pocket and buy us bread,” remembers cousin Luvuyo Mveli.

“We were expecting so much. He was here just this past Easter. My son had big dreams. He wanted to buy a car, especially to transport me around,” said his mother, Notshovile Mdizeni.

“My brother wanted a good life for his family and he knew he had to work hard to achieve his dreams. He took great pride in his job,” said Vuyisani.

Luvuyo tries to explain the day they were told Anele had been killed. “It was a painful day. Everyone was wailing. I can’t explain further because it hurts.”

Anele, a Pirates fan, married in 2009 and has a six-year-old child, Asisipho.

– Athandiwe Saba


Mongezeleli Ntenetya (34)
As the only breadwinner for 15 people, Mongezeleli was the champion of his family.

At his relatively young age, the rock-drill operator had to provide for his mother, his wife, his three children and his eight younger siblings.

His was the only income for the family home which lies off a gravel road in the village of Nqabarha near Dutywa in Eastern Cape.

He had worked at the mine since the age of 22.

“He was a humble man, who took care of us all,” said Mongezeleli’s wife Nosipho, her eyes bloodshot and swollen from crying.

The family find it hard to even talk of their lost relative.

Mongezeleli’s mother, Nowathile, said her son’s only dream was to educate his siblings.

“He wanted such a better future for his sisters and brothers and they all looked up to him,” she said.

He was not a miner who would return home only once a year.

“He came home as regularly as he could because he wanted to make sure the garden was ploughed and that everything was in order,” added Nosipho.

Orlando, one of his younger brothers, said he did not know what life would be like now that his brother was gone.

“Though my brother didn’t have much, whatever we asked for he would give it to us. He was a kind man, a big man who loved making everyone laugh. But right now none of us at home can really talk about it.

It hurts,” he said.

– Athandiwe Saba


Bongani Nqongophele (28)
Bongani’s wife was so distraught at the news of his death that she tried to take her own life by drinking pesticide.

Nosipho Ntonga, Bongani’s sister-in-law, said: “His wife couldn’t take the news. She is so weak right now. She tried to commit suicide.”

His mother was so shocked she also required medical care.

Bongani had been working at Lonmin for a year as a driller after leaving his sparsely populated village near Elliotdale in the Eastern Cape.
There he had married his wife, Nombulelo, in 2008 and the couple were devoted to each other.

“I would trade places with my brother-in-law in a heartbeat if I could,” said Nosipho.

“He was very young and had so much he was looking forward to. My sister is at the doctor now because she is so weak.

“I don’t want her to find me in tears like this. I have to be strong for her.” She wept.

The father, husband and brother had many plans for himself and his family.

“He had just started to build his own house down the road from our home.

“He was planning to buy a car and make a good life for his wife and child,” said Khanyisa Nqongophele, Bongani’s sister.

He had a five-year-old child, Anga.

When he was at home, he loved nothing more than to play with the children and to tend to his father’s cattle.

“Every December, the whole family would come home. I don’t know how it will be this year with our father gone and now our youngest brother.

“This is very painful,” said Khanyisa, who cried as she spoke.

– Athandiwe Saba

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r>Ntandazo Nokhamba (36)
Ntandazo had been a machine operator at the Lonmin mine since 2006.

Back at his home village of Ngcolorha in Libode, Eastern Cape, his uncle Madaka Nokhamba remembers a man who respected traditional customs and behaviour.

“Every time he came home the first thing he did was to go to every home in this village and let people know that he was home. He was a disciplined boy who followed in our footsteps,” he said.

Ntandazo’s older brother Malokwane admitted that the day he heard his brother had passed he “wept bitterly”.

He said: “He was a big part of this village. He loved the youth. Last time he was here he said he would buy the highest scoring (village) player a pair of soccer boots.

That was his last promise to the kids,” said Malokwane.

Ntandazo’s sister Nophelo said: “He spent three years in Johannesburg looking for work.

“We prayed every day that he would be finally hired. He was the father of this home.

“Though I’m widowed he still took care of me and my family. He also took care of his elder brother’s family.

“We have nothing without my brother. It has been very difficult without him.

“My mother even tried to hang herself after she heard the news. She is distraught.”

Ntandazo was married to Nosakhe Nokhamba and they had five children: Khuselwa (13), Siziphiwe (11), Liyabonga (7), Zozibini (2) and Elam (1).

– Anthandiwe Saba

Fezile Saphendu (23)
Fezile left his quiet village of Kwayimani in Mqanduli in the Eastern Cape two years ago to find work at the mine.

“He was such a hard-working boy. He passed so well in Grade 12 but, unfortunately, he didn’t have the money to study further. That’s why he decided to go work at that mine,” said his sister-in-law, Noingilane Saphendu.

Fezile was a “people person” who always had advice for others.

“He wanted to become a social worker. He would have been very good at it. He had a talent for dealing with people,“ said Noingilane.

The family members gathered on the lawn in front of Fezile’s newly painted home fondly remembered his antics.
 
“When he came home, he used to buy us all these sweet things.

“Anything we asked for here at home he would provide. He loved biscuits and sweets,” laughed Nokulunga Saphendu, another sister-in-law.
“I would be satisfied if my brother-in-law had been ill.

“If we at least had time to say goodbye to him...but for him to be taken away from us like this, we will never heal,” said Nokulunga.

She said although Fezile’s father had had two wives and many children, Fezile loved all his siblings equally.

– Athandiwe Saba


Nkosiyabo Xalabile (31)
Nkosiyabo worked side by side with his younger brother, Mandlenkosi (25), at the Lonmin mine.

The brothers are from Manganyela near Elliotdale in the Eastern Cape.
 
Mandlenkosi remembers his older brother as someone he could talk to, always depend on and who would protect him.

They stood together on strike at Marikana from day one of the labour action. Mandlenkosi remembered trying to find his brother on the day of the shooting. He was nowhere to be found.

Then all of a sudden he said he felt very cold.

“I just became so thirsty. My heartbeat became very irregular, and at the pit of my stomach I knew he was gone even before our pastor, at her house, told me she found his name on the deceased list in the hospital,” he said.

Nkosiyabo leaves behind his young wife, Lilitha, whom he married in a green-and-white wedding in July.

He was a religious man and an avid churchgoer.

He loved soccer and was a part-time coach of a team called the Eleven Strikers.

His mother, Nonezile, found it hard to talk. She said her son loved her beyond words.

Now all Nkosiyabo’s responsibilities rest on the shoulders of his younger brother.

– Athandiwe Saba


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