Marikana aftermath – My son, my son

2012-08-25 17:33

Molatedi Monesa (54) says he is dying from having spent half his life working on various mines across the country.

He came to South Africa from Botha Buthe in Lesotho as a 19-year-old in 1977.

“I’ve worked everywhere, Welkom, Carletonville, everywhere. These hands,” he says, opening the palms of his calloused hands, “built most of these shafts here in Rustenburg. I even worked on the chrome mines in Pietersburg (Polokwane). These mines, from Johannesburg to Rustenburg, were built by us Basotho.”

On Saturday, Monesa senior will be burying his eldest son Khanare (36).

He was among the 34 people who died when police opened fire on striking mine workers at Marikana last week.

Monesa snr is reluctant to speak at first, having just sat through an emotional memorial service that degenerated into chaos when it was hijacked and turned into a political rally by unionists and Julius Malema.

His younger son Motlalepula (33) and Khanare’s widow, Mmathabisile (23), are standing near a bus waiting to ferry other family members who have lost their loved ones to their lodgings.

A ministerial task team had organised transport and accomodation for the families of those who died.

Like his dad, Khanare had followed the route taken by hundreds of thousands of Basotho men, who for many years have sought to escape the poverty in their homeland by seeking work on South Africa’s mines.

Khanare had only just got married to Mmathabisile. They have no children.

She was happy, she says, when after struggling doing piece jobs, he finally got a job at Lonmin’s Karee mine two years ago.

Monesa snr was happy too, he says, because after he was laid off as a result of poor health in 2002, his family struggled. He had been the breadwinner all these years, providing for his wife and two sons back home in Lesotho.

“He was the only one who put food on the table. Now he is gone. My son is gone,” he says.

His younger brother, Motlalepula, was the last person in the family to speak to Khanare when he called him from Lesotho last Wednesday.

“He said he was worried about things that were happening because of the strike. I was supposed to call him again on Thursday, but I did not,” says Motlalepula.

Mmathabisile called him on Thursday morning, but did not get through.

On Friday, they received a call from a friend of Khanare’s in Marikana who told them there had been trouble and he was missing.

At the weekend they were called by mine officials who broke the sad news – Khanare had died.

Monesa snr, his son and daughter-in-law arrived in Marikana on Monday morning after travelling there by car.

“I saw his body at the mortuary. He’s gone. And this service today just made things worse. Look at her,” Motlalepula says, pointing at Mmathabisile.

“She fainted when they were singing. She spent a long time in the ambulance getting help.”

Many of the deceased’s families, overcome by emotion, collapsed during the service and had to be taken out of the packed marquee to be attended by paramedics.

Monesa snr says, raising his voice angrily: “When I left the mines I left with nothing. I got just a small payment from my provident fund which did not last. Now I have lost my son.”

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