Lonmin employees turned up in their thousands at Wonderkop hilltop yesterday to pay respects to their fallen colleagues and to reaffirm their vow not to return to work until their demand for a salary increase to R12 500 a month is met.
Grim as the occasion was, many said they had found closure in reliving the incident in the precise area where 34 miners fell to police guns a week earlier.
Mine management and police were conspicuous by their absence, although the grieving workers said they could “smell the murderers” (police) despite them not being in uniform.
They sang militant songs, bolstered by the presence of expelled ANC Youth League president Julius Malema and United Democratic Movement leader Bantu Holomisa. Some were clad in Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) T-shirts.
The memorial service, which was led by religious leaders, was the first step towards healing for both the employees and family members, who said they had found out the truth of what happened to their loved ones.
The marquee where the memorial service was held overflowed with mourners, many of whom stood on the fringes of the gathering due to a lack of seating.
Malema exhorted workers to stick to their demands.
He said the R2 million offering for burials by Lonmin director and former NUM general secretary Cyril Ramaphosa was a purchase for the lost souls by mine management.
Malema also offered the employees legal representation.
The employees held sticks, but did not have the spears and pangas that were common in the run-up to the killing by police on Thursday. There was no visible police presence where the service took place other than a helicopter that hovered over the hill.
Mfundo Rwayi, a winch operator at Lonmin, said he welcomed messages of encouragement from politicians.
Rwayi said it would be better for employees to return to work once they had mourned because their jobs needed focus.
“[President] Jacob Zuma does not care for us, he came here only yesterday whilst Malema has been here with us since the beginning of the incident.”