They make quite an impression with their presence. From the young maidens in mineworkers’ gear to the female sinew of all ages and different persuasions, the women who keep hope alive at this place are a dime a dozen.

There are those in ANC regalia, whose presence we cannot immediately conclusively fathom.

Those in the Amcu T-shirts have become a constant feature at Lily Mine, where the union seems to represent the majority of the mineworkers.

Their leader, Joseph Mathunjwa, is expected later in the day.

The hands-on Mathunjwa had even been underground earlier in the mine disaster, assisting with the initial rescue mission.

It soon unfolds that the women clad in ANC shirts, led by the mayor of the Nkomazi local municipality, Thulisile Khoza, are local politicians, mostly at ward councillor level. And, of course, the rent-a-crowd foot soldiers add decibels at singing time.

In due course, the two camps cause a spectacle, chanting struggle songs at cross purposes.

The Amcu women are adamant, singing “Lily Mine is ours” and “we can’t be told what to do by the ANC”.

The ANC T-shirts are marching to the Mathunjwa-mine management meeting to emphasise that the meeting has been going on for too long.

According to spokesman Cyril Ripinga, Khoza has been around the families “from Day 1”.

Khoza turns down a request to give a mother’s perspective to us. “Speak to Cyril (Ripinga),” she says.

The family of Pretty Nkambule also decline, through an elderly uncle, who stares into the distance with a faraway look in his eyes.

The women around him share that same blank look.

Nkambule was the breadwinner.

The rest of the women are wives, perchance girlfriends and family members.

Sunday Independent