South Africa

After Marikana report, the widows talk about life of hardship and pain

By BC Simelane & Greg Nicolson 30 June 2015

The Marikana report has been admonished by relatives of the victims. Looking at two stories, it's not hard to see why. Lives have been forever changed. The widows of two men seemingly on opposite sides of the strike are linked by the massacre's legacy of injustice and poverty. By GREG NICOLSON & BHEKI C. SIMELANE.

Nosakhe Nokambe’s hands are clasped as she walks out of Lonmin’s Vulindlela training centre. She sinks into the back seat of the car, a new job on one side of the parking lot, a new residence on the other. Her thoughts aren’t with us. Perhaps her kids: Khuselwa. Siziphiwo. Liyabona. Zozibini. Elam. Or her husband. Ntandazo. She reaches into her pocket and removes a handkerchief to wipe the tears. She’s wearing a doek, dark green overalls with fluorescent reflectors, and gumboots. She’s now the miner in the family.

After years of passing unnoticed, Ouma Tsotetsi welcomed national opposition leader Mmusi Maimane into her small home in Marikana West on Monday. He was followed by photographers, scribes, cameramen, and two dozen party supporters outside the gate. He left and Ouma did a lengthy TV interview. Wearing a brown jersey, black beanie, with a blanket around her waist, she stops watching her children watch cartoons and relents to another photo. Pictures of Frans Mabelane hang on the wall. She doesn’t know where to look. Her eyes are damp. Her 11-year-old daughter still doesn’t understand what happened. “When a violent scene plays on TV, she asks, ‘Is that what happened to dad?’”

Ntandazo Nokamba, or “body I” at the Farlam Commission, was 36-years-old when he was killed in Marikana on 16 August 2012. “He loved me and never wanted for me to suffer. He provided us everything we needed,” says Nosakhe.

Mabelane, or at the commission, one of the security guards, was 48-years-old when he was killed in Marikana on 12 August 2012. Karabo, the 11-year-old girl he had with his partner Ouma, looks at the ground while the cameras circle.

Both men died violently. The Marikana Commission of Inquiry report says Mabelane, a senior security guard, and his colleague Hassan Fundi were trapped inside the hostel area and unable to retreat from the striking miners. After Lonmin security came to help, Mabelane instructed the team to stop the strikers from attacking the National Union of Mineworkers offices. But the crowd outnumbered the security guards who couldn’t shoot enough rubber bullets. Others escaped, but Mabelane and Fundi’s Nissan Livina was set alight and they were hacked to death, their bodies mutilated. The commission recommended the attacks on Mabelane and Fundi be investigated for prosecution as well as Lonmin’s failure to protect its employees.

Nokamba died at the infamous scene two. “The only reasonable inference on the basis of the objective evidence is that Mr Nokamba was shot and killed unlawfully,” said lawyers for his family. His body was in a clearing between rocks and bushes, brushing up against the body of Fezile Saphendu. He died from a high-velocity gunshot wound to the back of the chest, allegedly from someone on a rock at a distance or in the cross fire, posing no threat. “Mr Nokamba may have been shot from either the rocks over which Major General Naidoo came with the [National Intervention Unit] or from the position of the K9 members,” states the commission report vaguely, recommending potential charges be investigated for the deaths at scene two.

The details were replayed in detail, repeatedly, for relatives at the commission to see.

Nosakhe started attending the commission in November 2013, missing the first year while staying at home with her newborn baby. “I didn’t like it. It hurt because the police were not completely honest and I wasn’t satisfied with the judge’s deliberations,” she says, quietly weeping in the car during a break from work. “We had to go through so much emotion while the judge criticised us as illiterate. That wasn’t nice at all… It wasn’t nice to leave our kids behind, but we had hoped the commission would reveal the truth.” Nokamba was the family’s breadwinner and Nosakhe did not know who would support the family. It’s tough on the kids. “They are struggling to cope, especially my 11-year-old. The only son asks me all the time if he’ll never see his dad again.”

I sat in the commission, but when ‘Mr X’ testified I got emotional and couldn’t follow,” says Ouma outside her home. Mr X, a mineworker who claimed to be a leader of the strike, despite much unreliable evidence, offered gruesome details of how Mabelane was killed by the workers. But the more immediate challenge is finances. Ouma says she only receives R500 a month from an insurance payout to care for her daughter Karabo after Mabelane’s death and cannot afford an unabridged birth certificate which would allow her access to more money. No one has come to help, no one has offered her assistance, she says, hopeful the Democratic Alliance and Maimane’s visit will lead to something.

Who killed my husband, how? Who will look after Karabo?” Ouma asks. “I thought Farlam would lambaste the police and tell them they were in the wrong because killing another human being is unlawful, no matter what their sin,” says Nosakhe.

Both women are still waiting for answers and compensation. “I long for another commission, but it should not sit in this country but elsewhere because people like Farlam were biased. Zuma and Lonmin must be fined for spilling our husbands’ blood so that we can raise our kids, even though we know we’ll never see our men ever again,” says Nosakhe.

She’s now a Lonmin employee, taking a job where her husband was killed to ease the financial pain on her family.

Ouma’s still struggling to care for Karabo, neglected in her plight.

Their pain started with two breadwinners, two partners, two fathers, one a mineworker, the other a security guard, being killed. Now, many lives are forever changed.

A 600-page report from the Marikana Commission of Inquiry will never ease the pain of violently losing love. Nor can it answer a child’s question, “Where’s my father?” Nosakhe and Ouma knew that but still had hopes. The commission failed on what it could have done. It failed to address Marikana’s legacy of injustice and poverty. It failed to say who killed Nokamba and Mabelane, how the perpetrators will be punished. And how are they supposed to raise their children without going back to the scene that shattered their families? DM

Photo: Ouma Tsotetsi at her Marikana West home. (Greg Nicolson)

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