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.
Khanare Monesa (36)
He was looking forward to the birth of his first child in three months’ time. The birth of the child would also coincide with his first wedding anniversary. But these dreams were shattered by a bullet to the left side of his head.
Khanare returned to his village of Boroeng near Butha Buthe, Lesotho, in a coffin.
His young wife Mmathabisile (23), his brother Motlalepula (33) and their sister Makgotso (39) will no longer roll with laughter at his jokes.
They say he was a funny man who enjoyed teasing people.
He loved his family and his wife, and was beyond excited when he learnt she was pregnant with their first child.
He loved football too, a game he played well into his 30s for teams in Rustenburg where he worked as a rock-drill operator at Karee mine. He loved the skull and crossbones of his beloved Orlando Pirates and was always glued to the TV whenever they played.
He also loved his cattle and called to check if they were well looked after. Two of the cattle were sacrificed for his funeral.
Monesa was also saving money to renovate his two-roomed house.
“He just wanted people to be happy all the time. He was a people’s person. Now I don’t know if life is going to be the same without him,” said Motlalepula.
“My only hope is that when his child is born, he’ll look exactly like him. The child will be a reminder to all of us that we once had a beautiful brother who was killed.”
– Lucas Ledwaba
Semi Jokanisi (29)
Semi was a step away from taking his place as a married man in the Nqaqhumbe community in Lusikisiki, Transkei.
Semi and a winch operator at Lonmin were in lobola talks to bring a wife to his new house and had promised his father, Goodman, this would be done by December – his 30th birthday.
“I was excited that the family tree was growing, and that he had built a house for himself and was now going to get married,” his father said.
“But now all those dreams have been shattered because he was fighting to earn a decent living wage,” said Goodman.
Semi had five children. His eldest turned 11 in July. The youngest is six. “It is a big blow. We were the only two looking after our big family. I hope and pray our government doesn’t let such a thing happen again,” Goodman said.
Goodman is also a miner at Lonmin and counts himself lucky that he was on leave when tragedy struck.
– Thanduxolo Jika
Thembinkosi Gwelani (27)
The last time Musa Gwelani saw his cousin Thembinkosi was when he cradled him in his arms on the killing field of Marikana.
Thembinkosi had been shot in the back of the head and Musa tried to lift him, but he couldn’t and the police were fast approaching so he let him go and ran for his life.
“The next time I saw him was at a mortuary and there was a bullet wound in his head,” said Musa.
Thembinkosi was apparently caught in the hail of bullets while delivering food to the striking miners.
His death is devastating to his family. He had been at Lonmin to look for employment in order to help his six orphaned siblings.
Now the young siblings have no hope for survival in the poor Makhwaleni village in the Lusikisiki district of Eastern Cape.
The siblings – five of whom are unemployed and one still at school – will have to rely on their grandmother’s pension to survive.
“At least Themba sent money and took care of everything. As you can see, there is nothing in this house,” said one of the siblings who asked not to be named.
“We at times sleep on empty stomachs.”
The Gwelani family have had to turn to their neighbours to help them bury Thembinkosi.
The villagers collected enough money to lay him to rest.
Musa said Thembinkosi will be remembered for his passion for traditional Mpondo music, which he also performed, even in the mines.
– Thanduxolo Jika
Thobisile Zibambele (39)
Nonkululeko Zibambele holds dearly onto the last memory she has of her husband: giving him a warm bath at his two-roomed shack near Lonmin’s Marikana mine a little over a month ago.
Nonkululeko had visited Thobisile from the couple’s home in Eastern Cape and recalls that at the time, Thobisile, a staunch Pirates fan, was celebrating his team’s win over fierce rivals Kaizer Chiefs during the Carling Black Label Cup in July.
But Thobisile was also a family man who sacrificed everything for his four children by going to the mines to earn money to give them a better life.
“Our child is in matric this year and Thobisile wanted him to further his studies and not be frustrated by being unemployed,” she said.
“With that little money he was earning in the mines he was determined all his children should get a better education than him.
“But right now I am left with no hope because those people took away the only hope we had in this family,” said the widow.
Thobisile was born in Nyazi village in Lusikisiki in the Transkei and was not only providing for his wife and children but had started building a house for his mother, whom he had only met this year.
She had lived for years in Mpumalanga and family issues had resulted in them not meeting before.
But Thobisile had begun to heal a rift in the family and had planned a family gathering in December, where a sheep was to be slaughtered for a family reunion.
– Thanduxolo Jika
Janaveke Liau (47)
The last time Mamohai Mashale saw her uncle Janaveke was on August 14 when he returned to Rustenburg, where he worked as a rock-drill operator at Lonmin’s Karee mine.
As the only remaining sibling and breadwinner, Janaveke had gone home to the village of Likolobeng, in the heart of Lesotho’s Maluti Mountains, to participate in a cleansing ceremony for his late brother, a former mine worker who died in July, apparently from complications arising from a stroke he suffered seven years earlier.
After arriving in Rustenburg, Janaveke called Mashale.
“I am going to war,” he said. “We are on strike. But I promise you I won’t die. I will be fine.”
But Mashale was worried.
“Uncle, please come home,” she pleaded.
Janaveke did come home two weeks later – in a coffin.
Janaveke, a father of four children aged between 4 and 14, was described by Mashale as a caring and selfless man who also provided for his late elder brother’s wife and children.
“He was a very caring man. He was a very important man to many families because he did not discriminate against anyone. He was the breadwinner. We have lost our father, we are left as orphans. He was our trusted one, our provider. We don’t know what will become of us now,” said Mashale.
“He helped us in many ways, clothes, food, anything we asked for. He provided without any complaints. It did not matter if you were his
child or not, he did not discriminate.”
– Lucas Ledwaba