August is Women’s Month and also the anniversary of the Marikana tragedy. We present here extracts from eight narratives, told through visual art and in words, of women who are family members of men killed in August 2012. These stories came from a workshop with the women held by the Khulumani Support Group, while the women were in Rustenberg attending the Marikana Commission of Inquiry.
The deaths of 34 strikers at the hands of heavily armed South African police, on the 16th of August 2012, rocked viewers across the world. Scenes of police firing on protestors were far too reminiscent of events twenty and thirty years ago – events that South Africans, our elected government, and people across the world had demanded must never, ever happen again. Then, at Marikana, it did happen again.A total of 44 people died, the majority of whom were striking mineworkers killed on 16 August. Ten people including two police officers and two private security guards, were killed between 10 and 11 August.
One of the family members at the Commission, in a discussion with the Khulumani Support Group, commented that the Commission treated them “like trees or stones”, silent, bearing witness, but with nothing to say when confronted with horrific events that strike each of them, leaving “a hole in my life, and in my heart”.
In these stories, the women speak of their lives – each one different, but each shaped by the mines and the migrant labour system that we inherited from apartheid. They look at how those killings hammered their lives, their families, their plans. And they look at what must be done, to continue their lives beyond the tragedy and loss of Marikana.
Agnes Makopano Thelejane
I am Makopane Thelejane. I am a daughter of Mrs Jane and Mr Julius Xokwe, from the same Pabalong village in Matatiela of my husband, Mr Thabiso Johannes Thelejane, who was killed by police in the Marikana Massacre on the 16th of August 2012, in the killings that are known throughout the whole world.
Then the pain of the date the 16th August 2012: I won’t forget the day, the pain is hard, sharp, it is not healed. I have a memory of my husband when early in the morning he left me on that day. When my husband was going to work, leaving me, he told me that they are going to a meeting, where they are going to be addressed by the union. He hoped to hear from the union whether they had managed to come to an agreement with Lonmin, whether they were going back to work tomorrow, and how much they would get paid.
When I got the news of my husband is dead, I put my hands above my head, as you see me in this picture. I could not bear the ache in my heart. I burst out loud with a flood of tears, holding my hands above my head, shocked, amazed, unable to believe that; with a stabbing pain in my heart that nearly took my life. I kept thinking about my children who are still young. My son and daughter, and my grandson, what would happen to them when they received this terrible news?
I am left with the burden of raising my children, and of doing whatever was going to be done by my husband. Even now, as we sit here listening to this commision, we are in a state of poverty, we are hungry, we don’t have anything to give to our children. I am still saying I don’t know who is going to take this burden that I have.
Nokuthula Evelyn Zibambela
As you see in this picture, this woman is lying there, so many days after her husband went missing. It was five days after the incident happened that she received the news that her husband was among those people that were killed in the massacre.
That red colour there shows what happened to her husband. I still see in my mind that video of the police dragging and pulling his body, separating him from others, making sure that they had killed him. Red blood was shed.
In my picture I am trying to turn my head towards my children, trying to wake up after I spent days lying like that, unable to move. I have drawn how I managed to wake up, to look at my children standing in front of me. I could not draw them at all. It shows me trying to find some means of putting food on the table, as they are left by their father. Above them in my drawing I put a garden where I will plant vegetables. The vegetables will give us something to eat with the mealie meal that I will buy with the children’s grant. My vegetables are fresh from the garden.
I’ve got that memory that cannot go out of my mind, seeing him being dragged down like a dog which is already dead, taken to be thrown out in a far-away place, in a dust-bin, making them sure that they have killed him. To make sure that he would leave all those eleven children as orphans. To kill him like that, just for pleading for an increment for their wages; not knowing that he was asking for death.
Today I am left alone, without a helper, and my dreams now are dark, black. My heart weeps with blood. I stay with heart pains day and night because of people who have no ubuntu. It becomes so hard when the month ends, when we used to get money; we do not have anything to put on the table now. That pain is worse to know that when the month ends, the police get their pay.
My name is Betty Lomosontlo Gadlela. I was born in 1969 in a poor family. I am a Swati lady coming from Swaziland, in the Manzini district.
I am afraid of the police, especially those who did this to my husband. I am afraid of those who are always coming to this Commission. I cannot bear looking at the pictures, at the videos about the terrible situation, the way they killed our husbands, shooting them even after they are already dead.
I would like to see what comes out of this commission. But I do not want any more of those things that I hear, that I see happening, when the police are defending themselves here. They keep talking about police who were killed, but I don’t care even how many police were killed. What I know: On that day, on the sixteenth, our husbands were running away, and the police came after them. They never went to attack the police.
Government must pay for the death of my husband, because he was killed purposefully, with evil intent.
Lonmin was supposed to listen to their cry, allow them just to work and pay them for the job they did. If he was not killed, he was supposed to be working, getting payment. We would not be where we are now, with no income, with nothing.
If Lonmin did hate my husband in that way, why did they not take him and his belongings, and throw him outside the borders of South Africa. If he did terrible things or criminal things to them, why did they not arrest him or send him back to Swaziland? Not to kill him.
Lonim was not supposed to kill my husband Gadlela.
This is my picture as you see me, putting my hands strait on my heart.
I press the pain into my heart with my hands. I try to comfort myself, because of the tragedy, where I saw my husband and other workers being killed in that Marikana Massacre. These are the police, you see them with guns shooting people. These are the people lying down, swimming in the blood which came out of the brutal killing done by the police. My husband is also amongst those people whose blood was shed there by the police, who died in that incident, leaving me at home in this mud house:
Make the ears of Lonmin and government to hear our cry and our sorrow. Thank you.