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#MarikanaMassacre plunged widows into abject poverty

Mgcineni Noki was one of the leaders of the striking Lonmin Marikana mineworkers who paid with his life when he was hit by a police bullet on that fateful day on August 16 2012. Picture: Tiro Ramatlhatse/African News Agency (ANA) Archives

Mgcineni Noki was one of the leaders of the striking Lonmin Marikana mineworkers who paid with his life when he was hit by a police bullet on that fateful day on August 16 2012. Picture: Tiro Ramatlhatse/African News Agency (ANA) Archives

Published Aug 16, 2018


Johannesburg - The widows of Marikana miners have complained of living in abject poverty while they wait for compensation following the police massacre of 34 breadwinners six years ago.

Angry widows on Wednesday said that by failing to reach out to them, the government had not learnt a lesson from arguably the worst post-democracy tragedy to hit the country.

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President Cyril Ramaphosa’s spokesperson Khusela Diko said Ramaphosa had publicly apologised for the 2012 killings and the perception created around the role he played in the Lonmin platinum miners' strike.

She said Ramaphosa, as the outgoing SADC president, would be out of the country today to attend the 38th Ordinary Summit of the Heads of State and Government of SADC in Windhoek, Namibia.

Speaking to The Star on Wednesday, coinciding with the release of another damning report into the police's shooting of miners striking for better wages, the widows said life had not been the same without their husbands.

“I sometimes struggle to buy food and electricity. As we speak now, there is no mealie meal in my house,” said Makopano Thelejane.

Today marks six years since the massacre in which Thelejane, 52, lost her husband and the father of her two children, Thabiso Thelejane, when police shot and killed 34 mineworkers.

On Wednesday, the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) released a damning research report titled "The Sound of Gunfire" into the shooting of mineworkers at what is known as "Scene 2” on August 16, 2012.

The report said 57 police officers from four different units had fired 295 bullets at mineworkers at the scene.

“198 R5 rifle rounds and 97.9mm rounds. SSG shotgun rounds were apparently also used. This was reckless in the extreme,” said David Bruce, who compiled the report.

“About 500m away (at Scene 1), police had earlier shot dead another 17 men in a fusillade of automatic gunfire, lasting just 12 seconds.

"At Scene 2 they took 11 minutes to shoot and kill a further 17 miners, including a group taking cover among rocks and bushes,” said ISS justice and violence prevention head Gareth Newham.

Crosses placed in 2012 for 34 mineworkers gunned down by police in Marikana near Rustenburg in North West. Picture: EPA

Bruce found that “some police thought they were under fire from the miners, when it was in fact bullets from their colleagues approaching from the other side of the area”.

He said 16 miners had suffered R5 injuries on the scene.

“Based on the analysis conducted, the conclusion of this report is that it is unlikely that there were any attacks by strikers on the police at Scene 2. At the very least, there is no convincing or persuasive evidence of any deliberate attacks on police at Scene 2,” said the report by Bruce, an independent researcher.

National police spokesperson Brigadier Vishnu Naidoo said this was a sensitive matter and he would not comment publicly about the damning report, which he was still to study.

According to the report, Thabiso Thelejane “had a bullet entry wound in the back of his head, one on the left side of his head and one in the right buttock. Pathologists indicate that he was likely to have been killed running away from where the police units were positioned”.

His wife said: “My husband gave me everything. When I called out to him, he provided for my needs. It is tough. The pain will never go away. I took ill when my husband died and have never had good health since then.

“The government has not done anything to help us. We are still waiting for compensation. If the government had started helping us, it would mean they had learnt a lesson from the tragedy.”

Thelejane’s son, Kopano, has since been employed by Lonmin.

Another widow, Mamerapelo Lekoetje, lost her husband Mgcineni Noki, who became known as “the man in the green blanket”, during the shooting.

She recalled how affectionate Noki - who she married in 2010 - was when he phoned her on that fateful day.

“He called at 5am while I was getting ready for work. I was so surprised. His last words to me where ‘I love you’. He said what was happening at Marikana was not nice. The manner in which he spoke to me that morning has remained with me all these years.

"I have learnt to live without my husband; what else can I do?

“We have to continue commemorating this day. The government has not done anything to show remorse for the killings. They were innocent. They were workers fighting for better lives for their families and better pay,” Lekoetje said.

Lekoetje is now raising their daughter Asive, 8, by herself.

“I am grateful to Lonmin because they kept their promise to help us take our children to school. Our daughter is now in Grade 3 and I hope Lonmin will be there until she goes through tertiary.”

Survivors of the Marikana massacre have accused the government of seeking to settle only part of their claims for the tragedy.

Attorney Andries Nkome, who represents the miners who were arrested and injured during the strike over wages at Lonmin's platinum mine in Marikana, told The Star last month that it was not true that the government had made a R100 million offer.

“The government seeks to settle only some of the claims and not the rest. It is not even true that there is a settlement offer that has been tabled for R100m. The claims we have lodged were for far more than R100m,” he said.

The Star

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