MBULELO Noki slowly moves his fingers over the spine-tingling newspaper image of the bullet-riddlen bodies of the gunned-down Marikana mineworkers, but his eyes remain fixed on a man lying face down.
His focus is on the body of a striker who became known as “the man in the green blanket”.
Moving his eyes to the throng of police officers with their guns pointed over the dead men, Noki, 33, shakes his head. It is still hard to accept what happened.
“Take this paper and throw it away. I can’t take this any more,” he says.
The man in the green blanket was his younger brother, Mgcineni Noki. He was a 30-year-old father and husband described by his brother as a pillar of strength to his family.
He was one of the leaders of the striking Lonmin mineworkers and was hit by a police bullet on the fateful August 16. Thirty-three other strikers also died.
To thousands of men who had occupied the koppie in Wonderkop for days in protest, demanding that management meet them over their demand for a R12 500 salary, Mgcineni was a leader.
For his brother, he was more than just a brother, and although younger, he was a “beacon of hope” for him.
Noki describes him as a born leader who led wherever he went, even in the sphere of football – where he played well in any position and made a good captain for the many teams he had played for since his school days.
Through his soccer skills, Mgcineni, a staunch Orlando Pirates fan, earned himself the nickname “Mambush”, by which he was known to his colleagues, friends and teammates.
Noki, who is himself a Lonmin employee, last spoke to Mgcineni on August 9 when he went to an Impala platinum mine to arrange for a cousin’s body to be transported home following his death due to illness.
Now he is arranging Mgcineni’s funeral.
Noki went to the mountain on the Monday before the shooting, hoping to talk to Mgcineni, but his brother was standing in the forefront, addressing thousands of men. Noki left without seeing his brother, but asked Mgcineni’s wife, who works in Carletonville, to try to persuade him to leave the strike and the mountain so he could help him.
The widow planned to go to Marikana the weekend after the slaughter. But it would be too late.
“He could not bury our cousin as he was dead himself and his wife didn’t get a chance to persuade him to leave the mountain,” said Nkosi, whose worst fears were confirmed when, three days after the shooting, he found his brother’s name among those killed at the mortuary.
His face changes as he speaks of his brother’s bullet-riddled body and “crushed” face.
“His body was riddled with bullets and he had a big gash around the eye. His left leg was broken and it looked to me like he had been run over by something heavy,” he says.
Mgcineni “was brave but… a pacifier. All he wanted was for workers’ issues to be addressed. He died while fighting for other workers’ rights.”
“It has been said that no one in South Africa will be hanged. But for police to just pounce on innocent people and kill them, to me it’s no different from driving them to the gallows and hanging them without any trial and conviction. These people were just sitting on the mountain asking for attention to be given to their grievances,” he says.
“I have, in one month, lost two brothers. The three of us were very close. I am now left on my own and feeling very weak without Mambush.”
Noki said he had convinced Mgcineni to leave Carletonville mines in 2004 as “gold mines were less safe than platinum mines”.
“In his first year [at Lonmin], Mgcineni was promoted from a general worker to a winch operator and then a rock drill operator. Obviously his bosses saw the leadership qualities in him, which is why the striking miners also saw him as a leader.
He was destined for bigger things with his leadership qualities. But being in the forefront as a leader has now cost him his life.”
Noki believes his brother was targeted by police because he had been in negotiations with them to disperse, urging them to get mine managers to talk to the striking workers.
In Marikana, the striking workers have lost a leader, but back in Mqanduli, the Noki family are preparing to bury a beloved son, father, friend, teammate and young head of the family.