Marikana aftermath – Down and out in Nkaneng

One of the startling things you notice about the Nkaneng informal settlement is that many of the shacks do not have toilets.

This explains why you find lots of pieces of used toilet paper around the thorn trees in the open veld around the settlement.

People relieve themselves here.

The settlement is located near Lonmin’s Karee mine, the site of recent violent clashes that left 44 people – including two police officers, mine security guards and mine workers – dead.

Most of the mine workers live here, having opted to leave the mine hostel where they can’t stay with families.

Also, staying outside the hostel comes with an added bonus of R750 extra income, called a “stay-out”.

The shacks are occupied by miners, their children and extended family, hoping to find work.

Queen* (39) stays with her mine worker husband and two of their six children in Nkaneng.

Four of the children live with their grandparents in Giyani, Limpopo.

She says her husband, a rock- drill operator at Karee mine, takes home just under R4 000 after deductions every month.

They send R2 000 home to the children in Giyani, spend R1 000 on groceries and R100 on paraffin.

To save money, she does most of the cooking on a wood fire out in the yard, where she also plants vegetables.

Most of the shacks in Nkaneng do not have electricity or water taps.

A 25-litre container of water costs R1.50 from those who managed to raise the R850 to install water taps on their properties.

Queen, who has a tap in her yard, says the water supply is erratic and she’s forced to walk long distances to draw water.

“My shoulders are aching from this work of carrying water,” says Queen, who even this week had not seen the footage of the shooting of striking miners by police because she doesn’t have a TV.

The shooting happened just a few hundred metres from her shack, where she hid for several minutes when she heard the roar of gunfire while she worried about her husband’s safety.

She was happy when he returned home later that day, unhurt, unlike the man who fell in their yard with blood oozing from his thighs and torso. He was carried by neighbours.

Nkaneng began mushrooming two years ago as more people migrated to the platinum fields of Rustenburg in search of work.

It is one of many such settlements around the platinum fields that have become hotbeds of violent strikes.

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