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North West - He was shot in the abdomen, and the many bullets from police guns have turned his abdomen into the shape of a rugby ball.
To this day, he can’t enjoy a meal without enduring pain.
These permanent scars will remain with Mzoxolo Magidiwana until he dies. It is a constant reminder of the fateful events of the Marikana massacre, which saw police officers open fire on striking Lonmin miners on August 16 last year.
A total of 34 miners died that day, but Magidiwana and others survived – although with serious injuries.
Magidiwana received intensive treatment for three months at a private hospital in Joburg. He later had to get physiotherapy care at a medical centre in Rustenburg, North West, and he remains disfigured due to the gunshot wounds, he says.
In his recollection of events, Magidiwana says that when the wage protests broke out on August 9, he decided to stay at home and has no recollection of events prior to the mass killing of the workers, he says.
“While I was supporting the wage struggle. I remained at home. At some point I wanted to go home to the Eastern Cape, but decided against it. I did not want to return and find that others had already returned to work, which would force me to face the music alone,” Magidiwana remembers.
A year later, he still holds a grudge against the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) and its president Senzeni Zokwana, he says, breaking into song: “How are we going to destroy this NUM. We hate this NUM.”
He adds: “I only decided to join the men at the koppie on August 16 – the day I got shot – the reason being, as a NUM member then, I was disappointed after hearing Zokwana telling the world that he did not have members who are staying at the koppie. It was clear to me that no one was representing us.”
While disappointed, Zokwana’s statement did not drive him to lose hope.
He drew inspiration from singing with other miners, as that “reminded me of the singing in our villages”, and upon hearing that Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union president Joseph Mathunjwa would be visiting the koppie, he decided to “go and personally listen to him”, Magidiwana says.
He readily admits that he initially had no faith in Mathunjwa.
“At first I thought he was like Zokwana.
“My attitude towards him changed later. I recognised him as one of our leaders,” Magidiwana says.
Magidiwana remembers that striking miners turned to song as they waited for Mathunjwa to return and give them feedback on his meeting with Lonmin’s bosses.
“While we were waiting for Mathunjwa, we saw people inside a luxury car approaching us.
“Initially, we thought it was the employer, but Bishop Joe Seoka emerged from it.
“He never treated us like criminals.
“He came and said ‘I see that you’re in pain’.
“He later promised to talk to the employer,” Magidiwana says.
When Mathunjwa eventually arrived at the koppie, what he had to say was not satisfactory, says Magidiwana.
“What I remember, he (Mathunjwa) said: ‘The black man’s blood is cheap. A decision had already been made about you that you will be killed. I was refused entry into the meeting’.”
Mathunjwa then went down on his knees and pleaded with the workers to go home.
“It was then that I decided that Mathunjwa had now sold us out to Lonmin,” says Magidiwana.
But the miners remained steadfast, instructing Mathunjwa to go back to the negotiation table with Lonmin.
“As Mathunjwa left, police started drawing the barbed wires. I initially thought it was to ensure the safety of Lonmin bosses. A few minutes later, a Nyala moved towards us in the koppie while other police surrounded the area.
“Unsuspectingly, we remained in the area and continued singing.
“Later, I saw police officers putting on their (bulletproof vests) before charging at us. I knew that trouble was about to start.
“Within seconds, police fired teargas at us and later used their guns to fire at us. I was slowly moving to Nkaneng (informal settlement) when more bullets were fired… some of them struck me. I do not remember what happened later,” Magidiwana says.
Clad in a green top, Magidiwana was among a group of men on whom police opened fire, as seen in television news.
Lying among bullet-riddled bodies and next to “the man in the green blanket”, there was no sign of life in him. Many only learnt later that he had survived.
Magidiwana believes that he was not given sufficient medical care at Sunninghill Hospital and Medicare in Rustenburg because Lonmin, which paid for his medical care, complained that he was depleting the company’s medical aid.
“I am not fully okay. I still feel pain in my knees. I am not right. I am unable to eat properly. My stomach looks like a rugby ball,” he maintains.
Despite his health issues, Magidiwana does not regret his decision to fight for the R12 500 wage increase.