“THE life of people working in the mines is cheaper than chewing gum. Our children were sold for braais and airtime,” Andile Yawa told the Farlam Commission of Inquiry yesterday.
Yawa, a former miner whose son, Cebisile, was one of 34 miners killed by police on August 16 2012, was addressing the commission as it heard presentations from all 44 families who lost loved ones during the violent unprotected strike at Lonmin’s Marikana platinum.
It was a solemn, poignant day of testimony as family members recalled their loved ones, how they had received the news of the deaths and their frustration and hopes for the commission that was initially set for four months, but has run for almost two years.
The hearing was wrought with emotion as family members and others present broke down in tears.
Nonkululeko Ngxande, widow of miner Mphumzeni Ngxande, fainted after her testimony and she, together with three other widows who also fainted, was taken to hospital for medical treatment.
Ngxande had spoken earlier of her husband’s excitement on August 16 because Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) president Joseph Mathunjwa was to address workers at the koppie, where they had gathered daily to protest, and of a growing sense that Lonmin officials would meet them to resolve the wage strike.
But Lonmin officials refused to meet the miners and while Ngxande was performing household chores in her shack in Nkaneng informal settlement she heard numerous shots that afternoon. “The policemen failed my husband,” she said.
Lonmin, which had no official representatives at the commission yesterday, also drew the ire of Makopano Thelejane, widow of Thabiso Thelejane, killed on August 16.
She said although she had seen her husband off to work “every day in his white overalls … after the incident Lonmin alleged they didn’t know him”.
She said: “When Lonmin gave out food parcels in December, my [two] children received nothing … since they killed my husband, they don’t care about what we eat.” Her husband, a sub-contracted worker at Lonmin, was the family’s sole breadwinner.
Elizabeth Monene Maubane, sister of Warrant Officer Tsietsie Monene, who was killed on August 13 during a skirmish between miners and policemen, said: “It’s a dark day for the Monene family. We will never celebrate this day.” – Niren Tolsi