Families of the three trapped miners underground for over a month at the Vantage Goldfields’ Lily Mine at Barberton, Mpumalanga, make their away at the mine. operations to rescue three trapped miners remains suspended. Picture: Itumeleng English 920 10.03.2016

Sickness and a hard life have made Duduzile Nyirenda age well beyond her 57 years. She speaks slowly but well and now and again flashes of her once-brilliant mind shine through her words.

She sits forlornly outside her modest home, a stone's throw from the gravel road that takes the heavy flow of traffic to and from Lily Mine.

This is the same home her son left from on that fateful Friday morning, more than a month ago.

She says she will not go and keep vigil with members of the other families at the marquee on the mine property.

“It is just too much for me to bear. It brings pictures of my child to my mind's eye. I can't get myself to sleep.”

Her son, Solomon Nyirenda, 37, has been trapped underground for 34 days as she speaks.

“Who can we pray to who can help bring these children back?”

She looks straight into my eyes and it hits me this is no rhetorical question. “What is to be done now?”

She asks if I am not from government and hastens with another question: “What do the whites say about our children down there?”

She is not well, she says. She has just eaten so she could take her medication. She has been in and out of hospital “and the clinic”.

She last saw to her son in December, she says.

A brain wave hits her and she quickly corrects herself: “No, we spoke on the phone.”

On the day her son went to work (for the last time?) the mother was away in Badplaas: “We had gone to bury my sister's husband.”

She casts her glance somewhere ahead of her, but it is doubtful if she's focusing on any one object.

“Solomon was my one great help. It is difficult without him. He was the breadwinner,” she says.

She has another child, daughter Nomthandazo, who had come to cook for her.

Her head is full of questions that escape her mouth even when the interlocutor would not provide the remedy she seeks.

It looks therapeutic to her to keep asking, wanting to know. “How would it feel to you if your own child goes to work and never returns?”

She wants to take her pills, she says.

There is no clearer sign than that to say she wants to be alone - maybe with the torment of her thoughts.

If anyone is ever going to write a song about a mother crying for her son, this woman is the subject.

“This can affect anyone.”

If telepathy is as real as mobile telephony communication, Solomon Nyirenda - the trapped male mineworker, must be speaking to Mlungisi Nyirenda, his confidant who is eagerly awaiting the rescue or recovery of the Lily Mine Three.

Schoolboy Nyirenda says he speaks to his cousin all the time.

“Yes, I don't stop.”

Every day after school Nyirenda, 22, goes to the mine - which is a good trot away - to join the masses of friends and family praying for the safe return of the three.

He is a Grade 10 pupil at Louieville Combined School.

The schoolboy stays with Nyirenda the miner at the latter's home, where his chores include preparing the lunch box for the latter.

“I look after the house when he goes away to work, and then I cook.”

Sunday Independent