Never forget: The faces of Marikana

City Press's front page in early September 2012.
City Press's front page in early September 2012.
It’s been seven years since 34 mineworkers were shot dead in a burst of police gunfire during a protest at the then Lonmin Platinum’s Marikana operations. Ten people, including security guards and police officers, were killed in the run-up to the mass shootings at two sites around a koppie where workers had gathered during their strike, demanding a minimum salary of R12 500 a month.Much has been said and written about what has become known as the Marikana Massacre, and a commission of inquiry was set up to find out exactly what happened. But there were journalists on the ground when it all went down. This is how they reported on the Marikana Massacre in August 2012.This week City Press went back to Marikana. Read our feature on this ghostly mining town in Sunday’s print edition.

Mgcineni Noki
Mgcineni Noki, the man in the green blanket, who died at Marikana

The bullet that killed Mongezeleli Ntenetya didn’t stop in Marikana: it tore into the hearts of 15 other people in an Eastern Cape village.

These are the 15 people in Nqabarha near Dutywa that this one man, this miner, completely supported and loved and who was their only hope in all the world.

Another bullet from the killing field of the Lonmin mine also shattered the life of a mother in Mdumazulu village, more than a 1000 km away. 

She dropped dead, her family say, when she heard that her beloved son, Phumzile Sokhanyile, had died.

Phumzile Sokhanyile
Phumzile Sokhanyile.

Her son was more than a son. He reminded her of the husband she had loved and who she had also lost.

“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 will just give him a very big smile and hug,” recalled his mourning sister, Nozukile Sokhanyile, in the Eastern Cape village.

These are the uncounted victims of the Marikana tragedy which culminated on August 16 with the deaths of 34 miners under a barrage of police fire. Another 10 – including two police officers - died in the days leading up to the shooting.

An official inquiry will establish who is to blame, but there is another story to be told - the story of the fallen of Marikana.

City Press and Media24 Investigations reporters have travelled across South Africa, to Swaziland and to Lesotho, to put faces to the names of the dead, to tell their stories and to understand the scale of the sorrow which followed the last echo of the guns.

The truth is that Marikana’s did not claim 44 victims. There are scores more.

Miner Bongani Nqongophele’s wife back home in a village near Elliotdale in the Eastern Cape could not face the news of his death and turned to pesticide as she tried to end her pain forever. She survived.

Van Wyk Sagalala.
Van Wyk Sagalala.

The stories – whether of the police warrant officers Sello Lepaaku and Tsietsi Hendrik Monene or of the scores of miners - have a common thread. It’s a thread of unspeakable heartbreak, of families faced with uncertain futures and of dreams brutally dashed.

Kedineetse Lydia Mohutsane, 49, was due to have married miner Van Wyk Sagalala this month. That dream died at Marikana.

“I’m hurting, I don’t even know what to say about this loss,” she said.

In the Swaziland village of Dvokolwako, about 60km from Manzini, the impact of the death of 50-year-old miner Stelega Eric Gadlela is beyond measure.

The father of 11 children, aged between four and 28, he was his large family’s sole breadwinner. 

He was our only hope. He was responsible for everything in the house
Gadlela’s daughter, Hlengiwe (28)

There are more victims of Marikana.

Baby Mihle Yona, was only seven days old when his father, Bonginkosi Yona, 32, was killed.

In Maqhusha village near Lady Frere in the Eastern Cape the infant’s mother, Nandipha Yona, can’t imagine life without her beloved husband.

“He was a selfless man who said he didn’t want to die with his children so young,” she said.

“I can’t see things getting any better from here. We have no one left. I don’t know what I will do”.

But amid the tears there is warmth too, the stories to be expected of men ingrained in the lives of their loved ones; men who were away from home for months at a time and whose every moment back with them was treasured.

Khanare Monase.
Lesotho born Khanare Monase, is one of the miners who died during the Marikana shooting.

Young men like Anele Mdizeni, 29, from Cwele near Elliotdale in the Eastern Cape, whom friends and family remembered as a wonderful joker.

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

All these stories put a face to the faceless.

Remember “The Man in the Green Blanket”, the enigmatic miner leader at Marikana whose identity was a great mystery?

His name is Mgcineni “Mambush” Noki, from Thwalikhulu in the Mqanduli district in the Eastern Cape.

At home he is remembered as a natural leader who embraced responsibility. He was a Pirates fan who also loved weightlifting. He was married and had a three-year-old child, Asive.

Bonginkosi Yona.jpg
Bonginkosi Yona.

“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 his sister Nolufefe Noki.

Police officers... a security guard... miners. 

Husbands... sons... fathers... lovers.

These are the faces of Marikana.

Reporting by: Athandiwe Saba, Thanduxolo Jika, Lucas Ledwaba, Sizwe sama Yende, Loyiso Sidimba, Sipho Masondo and Nicki Gules

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