Widows wail and faint as they relive the events of Marikana

2014-08-13 15:17

The Marikana Commission of Inquiry into the deaths of 44 people, mostly mineworkers, had to be adjourned early today as emotions ran high. Family members found reliving the events unbearable.

Some of the family members recounted how they tried to commit suicide.

The commission had set the day aside to hear from each of the families whose relatives were among the 34 mineworkers who were killed on August 16 2012 and to find out how the deaths had affected their families.

The heart-rending scenes had every family member in tears, with even some members of the press finding it hard to hold back tears.

Commission chairperson Judge Ian Farlam had to adjourn the proceedings after Nonkululeko Ngxande, the widow of Phumzeni Ngxande, fainted.

Paramedics had to be called in to attend to relatives, some of whom had collapsed and were hyperventilating.

Seven widows had to be taken to hospital as they fell ill and deafening wailing reverberated throughout the auditorium where the hearing is being held in Centurion.

All the families said they wished Lonmin had fired the workers rather than allowing the situation to get to the point where they were killed.

Relatives said their husbands and brothers often complained that they “worked very hard, but earned too little”.

The relatives recounted how their husbands, brothers and cousins were the sole breadwinners in their families, and how their deaths had sent them begging from their neighbours to survive.

Nombulelo Nqongophele, the widow of Bongani Nqongophele with whom she had two children, said she tried to commit suicide immediately after hearing that her husband’s body had been found at the Phokeng mortuary near Rustenburg, North West.

Many of the family members blamed the police and singled out Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa – who testified this week about his role as nonexecutive director at Lonmin – for their relatives’ deaths.

Ntombixolile Mosebetsane, the widow of Thabiso Mosebetsane, said she was struggling to make ends meet since her husband died at the koppie in Marikana.

“I have a last born who is three years old. I can’t even buy my child a doll, but some people can pay R18 million for a buffalo,” said Mosebetsane, in reference to Ramaphosa’s famous failed bid to buy a buffalo.

They also accused Ramaphosa of applying political pressure on police, which resulted in officers opening fire on the striking mineworkers.

Ramaphosa has denied claims that he applied political pressure on ministers to act in Marikana.

He told the commission this week that he intervened and spoke to former minerals minister Susan Shabangu about Lonmin’s concerns of “brutal murders” before August 16 because he wanted to save lives.

Families said they had not received any help since Lonmin distributed food parcels to families of the victims in December 2012, four months after the massacre.

Many of the families said they depended on state social grants to survive.

The families recounted how they kept in touch with their husbands on the phone during the strike and begged them to come home and leave Marikana.

But pleas from family members for their husbands and brothers to return home fell on deaf ears as they said they were forced to go on strike to fight for their rights.

Family members were also angry that there were no paramedics to look after those who had fainted, and questioned why ambulances were available when former police minister Nathi Mthethwa and Ramaphosa testified.

Many of the families said they were shocked by Lonmin’s action, because many of their relatives had worked for the company in the past doing the same work at the mines.

The hearing continues.

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