The faces of Marikana: Part I

2012-09-08 18:32

Mphumzeni Ngxande (38)

After years of struggling on the streets of Cape Town doing odd jobs, Mphumzeni finally got a break in 2008 when he packed his bags and went to work as a mine worker for Lonmin in North West.

Mphumzeni was born in Lujizweni village in Ngqeleni, 20km outside Mthatha in Eastern Cape but life was tough and there were no jobs for him there.

His search for a living led him to Lonmin and his success in finding a job provided his family with their greatest hope for the future.

His father, Mboneni Ngxande, said it was difficult for the family to speak about their son, who was a rock-drill operator at Lonmin, as it was not acceptable in their culture to do so before a funeral.

However, Mboneni said his son had a wife, a child of his own and two other children who relied on his wages from the mines.

“He had warned us about the strike and raised fears that he might lose his job and have to come back home.

He said he had no choice but to join in the strike because everyone was involved,” his father recalled.

“I really got worried because we kept hearing on the radio there was violence at Marikana and that people were dying,” he said.

News of his death came as an enormous shock as the Mphumzeni they knew was a peaceful person.

His father said the family hoped their child had not died in vain and that life on the mines would improve for others from the villages as a result.

– Athandiwe Saba

Mvuyisi Pato (35)

Mvuyisi sweated on the mines to help give his sister a better life.

He chipped in every month to assist his parents pay for her fees at Fort Hare University in Alice in the Eastern Cape.

The 35-year-old Mvuyisi was born in Mbhobheni Village in Mbizana in the Eastern Cape and his death has left his parents with no idea where they will get the extra money they need to get their daughter through her second-year studies.

Mvuyise’s mother, Manqupha Pato, said her son was dedicated to his family and ensured that his younger siblings got a chance to get a better education.

“He was caring and not selfish. Even though he was building his own house, he made sure that his sister, who is at Fort Hare, got all the financial support she needed.

“It is very painful to us that we have lost him as you can see his father is a pensioner and I am in no position to work,” said Manqupha.

She said Mvuyisi and his two older siblings had a tough upbringing because the family was poor and this had forced him and his brother, Vuyisile, to look for work on the mines in the North West.

Vuyisile, who also works at Lonmin as a rock-drill operator, said he had just left Mvuyisi the day before the shootings to visit the family.

“The strike wasn’t ending and I told him I was going home. He said he was staying behind with the rest of the guys.

“But he told me to tell our parents not to worry,” Vuyisile recalled.

“It was a shock to get a call from the other guys telling me he had been killed,” said Vuyisile.

He will remember his brother for his bravery.

“He died for all of us in the mines.”

– Thanduxolo Jika

Mzukisi Sompeta (37)

Mzukisi’s family, from the dirt-poor kwaDiki Village in the Lusikisiki district of Eastern Cape, was expecting him home soon, bearing gifts as he always did.

Instead, the last time they saw him was when they buried him last Saturday.

Mzukisi, a rock-drill operator, died at Marikana and, like many who fell with him, his passing leaves a chasm in his rural home.

In the villages of Lusikisiki, families mark their rise from poverty by building brick homes to replace their traditional rondavels.
For the Sompetas, this was an ongoing project fuelled by Mzukisi’s earnings from Lonmin.

He was due to come home for his annual leave only a week after the day that he died, where he would have continued extending the family rondavel with brick buildings.

But those dreams died with him at Marikana.

His family remembers him as a man who loved to sing, especially popular church hymns. – Thanduxolo Jika

Ndikhokhele Yehova - even though he could never bring himself to admit that he was not a great singer.

“As you can see his father can’t do anything. He walks with a stick and has to be assisted to go anywhere. He is just a pensioner who is not well, so Mzukisi was now the one who was heading this household. None of my other two children are working so we are back to struggling because the family is big,” said Mzukisi’s mother Mabhengu Sompeta.

Dressed in her black mourning garmet and sitting on a mattress in the rondavel, Mabhengu mourned the loss of a man who had brought peace to their lives.

Phumzile Sokhanyile (48)

Phumzile was so loved by his family that his mother collapsed and died when she heard he had been killed at Marikana.

Phumzile had many nicknames in Mdumazulu village in the Transkei, but most remember him as uMshumayeli (The Preacher) who would grab every opportunity at a funeral to stand and quote Bible verses.

The nickname still makes people smile in the village as they recall a younger Phumzile, who would rather herd cattle than head to church on a Sunday with his grandfather and his siblings.

“If there was ever a funeral in the village he would be present and would take a chance and preach, which was very funny because he never used to like church,” said his sister Nozukile.

“He made us laugh and everyone in the village liked him because of his jokes and his caring nature,” she said.

Nozukile said her brother resembled their father so much he would sometimes claim to be him when teasing his mother.

“He was very close to his mother and made her laugh every time he came back home. He would say ‘umyeni wakho ubuyile (your husband has returned)’ and our mother would give him a very big smile and hug,” said Nozukile.

She said it was no coincidence their mother collapsed and died after hearing of his death. He was so central to her life.

Phumzile had hopes of taking his daughter, who is in matric this year, through university, an opportunity he had never had.

– Thanduxolo Jika

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