Families still searching for mine victims

2012-08-18 18:59

Marikana - Ntaoleng Thato's face was tense with worry as she walked to the small caravan outside a miners' hospital to check the casualties list from Thursday's police shootings.

The barrage of gunfire during a strike at Lonmin's Marikana platinum mine left 34 people dead and 78 wounded, while 259 have been jailed - and many families are unsure which fate has befallen their missing loved ones.

Thato hasn't seen her brother, 65-year-old Thabiso Mosebetsane, since Thursday morning. His four children have been crying since they realised that he hadn't returned from the site of the mass shooting.

The area was quickly declared a crime scene and sealed off, so they couldn't view the bodies.

Their dread grew as Friday passed without news, and fear and sadness have hung heavily over the shack where they live, on top of one of the world's richest platinum reserves.

"I was crying because his children were crying," said 38-year-old Thato.


Mosebetsane's wife left early on Saturday for the mortuary. Thato came to the hospital, where other grieving relatives were trickling through.

The London-listed mine company, Lonmin, has pledged to help identify and bury the bodies, while promising the victims' families that their children will be educated through university.

The list of casualties now sits in the caravan outside Lonmin's Andrew Saffy Hospital.

For Thato's family, losing her brother as breadwinner would be a crushing blow that would ripple through an entire community.

As she gathered all her courage to finally take a look at the list, she breathed a sigh of relief.

"I didn't find him. They tell me he's in jail," she said. "I was worried but now I feel all right."

Waiting for news

For many others, the search continues.

"There's someone I haven't seen, and I can't reach him on the phone," said Ian Buhlungu, aged 47, whose friend Ngcwangula Lubuzo went to the hill on Thursday to hear news from the mine managers.

"He didn't come back," said Buhlungu.

They come from Eastern Cape province, at the opposite end of the country, where Lubuzo's wife is waiting for news, but Buhlungu doesn't know where they live or how to contact her.

Fearing the worst, he has avoided the hospital list so far.

Many of the 28 000 employees at the Marikana mine have no relatives nearby.

Better than the Eastern Cape

With unemployment in the country at nearly 25%, people travel huge distances - some from neighbouring countries - to look for work in these dusty but mineral-rich hills.

Living in squalid shacks of wood and corrugated metal, they don't have running water and use pit latrines.

This life is still better than the poverty they endured in the Eastern Cape, South Africa's most impoverished region where some schools still teach children under trees.

Migrant labour has built South Africa's mining industry for more than a century, unearthing riches of gold, platinum and diamonds, often while paying miners meagre wages.

The wildcat strike by about 2 000 of the Marikana miners has been in demand of a tripling of their current monthly wage of R4 000 rand a month.

By South African standards, they are fortunate. A report last week said 39% of the population lives on less than R432 per month.

If Buhlungu's friend is dead, he will be buried in the green rolling hills of their town Libode.

"We are going to ask aid from the mine so we can take him home," he said.

  • mario.polanski.3 - 2012-08-18 20:22

    I am completely personally enraged at the brutal, inhumane manner that innocent, peace loving miners on an illegal wildcat strike, were callously shot down. The country needs a monument erected to this tragic event, so it can be recorded in history, and reverently remembered by all.

      wade.johnson.58726 - 2012-08-18 20:37

      Dude, I hope you're being sarcastic. I say this because, Innocent; peace-loving people wouldn't be wielding Knives; Machetes; Spears; Knobkerries etc. I also find it strange that these so called "innocent & Peace loving" Miners would hack to death 2 Police Offices 3 days prior.

      terence.hinrichsen - 2012-08-18 20:46

      @mario.polanski.3 - This is sad, that you would make a comment like that, have you read ANY of the news articles around this tragic event. These "innocent, peace loving miners" have savagely murdered not just police officers, but other innocent people as well, what about their families. There are alot of people to blame for this tragedy and you are oblivious to what is going on.

      Jennifer - 2012-08-18 21:08

      He's being sarcastic... Or maybe he wants this event to be remembered rather than swept away... I'm not sure though.

  • ernest.lwandle - 2012-08-18 21:20

    its always sad to see people losing their lives and does nt mater in wich way but on the other hand the law enforcemetn or the police needs to be tough and be fully respected.we cant live in a state wherby everybody si doing what he want when he want. doing what ever want

  • leviy - 2012-08-19 07:42

    we all have choices in life,why go to a strike with weapons?when a man has a panga in his hands this could only mean one thing"WAR",,,i feel for families of the deceased***and the end of the day they had so many days to disperse but they decided to go on with violence...above evrythin they are all adults*theres this jajarag tendency in this country that every problem should be solved with violence...well even the GOOD BOOK says it"you live by the sword you die by the sword"this should be a lesson to all workers there much better ways to solve problems>>>we all have choices in life make a wise one.

      desiree.norval - 2012-08-19 09:12

      You are so correct. Glad to see so many level headed people. What would any reasonable person have done in the shoes of those police officers? I would have fired on that angry mob.

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