The Marikana massacre: a glimpse of the men behind the numbers

The City Press, a mainstream newspaper in South Africa, has published short obituaries of the striking miners gunned down by the ANC government.

Submitted by red jack on September 10, 2012

Stelega Gadlela (50)

His first name was Stelega, a word Swazi language speakers use to describe a strike.

Ironic then that Stelega was shot by police during a strike by miners at Marikana.

Stelega hailed from the rural village of Dvokolwako, 60km from the city of Manzini, in Swaziland.

He left the kingdom in 1982 to search for work in South Africa and changed mining jobs a few times before settling at Lonmin in 1989.

He worked hard and climbed the ladder to become team leader.

The father of 11 children, aged between four and 28, he was his large family’s sole breadwinner. His dream was to extend their four-room house.

“He was our only hope. He was responsible for everything in the house,” said Stelega’s daughter, Hlengiwe (28). “Whenever he was on leave, he often spoke about building us a bigger house.”

Stelega’s wife, Betty, could not talk to City Press as Swazi culture forbids it because she is in mourning.

Meanwhile, close relatives were trying to imagine what would happen to Stelega’s family and all the other relatives he carried on his shoulders.

Hlengiwe said her father phoned to update the family about the strike shortly before he died.

The last time he phoned, he told her the situation was getting tense, and that helicopters and police had been sent to the mine.

“They should have dismissed him rather than kill him like that,” she said.

– Sizwe Sama Yende

Bongani Mdza (28)

Bongani would have started building his house last week. Instead, he was buried in his home village of Jabavu, near the Eastern Cape town of Matatiele.

His sister, MmaTshepo Letshaba, said Bongani had told her he would soon be taking his month-long leave to begin building his home on a plot
he bought next to her house.

“He asked to be fetched from Matatiele on Friday, August 31,” MmaTshepo said, adding that hewas very excited about the prospect of having a home of his own.

He was going to move his wife and two-year-old daughter, with whom he lived in a shack in the Nkaneng informal settlement near the mine in Marikana, into the new house once it was built.

Bongani had worked for Lonmin for several years since dropping out of school in Grade 9, his sister said.

“He helped us a lot, he assisted whenever we needed help.”

MmaTshepo said that as her husband worked far away from home, as a driver in Mpumalanga, Bongani helped out whenever her and her family were in need of extra money.

The two of them were very close, she said, as their parents had died when they were young.

She and her brother were raised by her husband’s family.

“Sishiyeke sibabini ngoku (there’s only two of us left now),” she said, referring to herself and her brother’s widow, who she regards as her only remaining sibling.

– Loyiso Sidimba

Jackson Lehupa (48)

Jackson dreamed of his wife and eight children having a proper home.

His brother, Joel, said the man who was buried at his homestead in Bethania, near the Eastern Cape town of Mount Fletcher last weekend, was passionate about improving his family’s circumstances.

That could have been what prompted the rock-drill operator to join the strike.

“I’m worried because he left a house he had just started building with the little money he had,” Joel said.

“So I really don’t know who is going to finish it. Recently, when we were preparing for the funeral, we had to put a tent on top of those walls with no window and no doors.”

The family remains as he left them, occupying a single rondavel and one other room.

“He was trying his best to build up something for his family,” Joel said.

Joel said the Lehupas appreciated government support, especially the counselling sessions social workers had with Jackson’s wife and children.

Although Lonmin has promised to educate the children of the mine workers shot dead, Joel said the family discovered in the days leading up to his brother’s funeral that some of his younger children were not registered as dependants with his employer, Lonmin.

“They’re there, they’re his,” he said.

– Loyiso Sidimba

Thabile Mpumza (26)

Thabile had not been working for Lonmin for nearly a year when he was shot dead.

“He worked there for two years, but was fired last year after taking part in an illegal strike,” said his sister, Xolelwa.

His family says he only joined the protest after the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) promised to help him get his job back.

Thabile, from the village of Mvalweni, near Mount Ayliff, was his family’s sole breadwinner.

He supported his one-year-old baby, his siblings and their children, aged between 7 and 13.

He dropped out of school in Grade 7 following his parents’ deaths as “he could no longer afford school fees and a uniform”, his brother said.

He wanted better for his nieces and nephews, all of whom he was putting through school.

After leaving school, Mpumza went to Johannesburg and landed a job at a company manufacturing aluminium products, before joining relatives on the platinum fields in North West.

“It’s hard, we don’t even know where to start,” said Xolelwa at the family’s homestead overlooking the Mvalweni River.

Thabile died a few days after his grandfather passed away. They were buried on consecutive weekends.

His desperate siblings are now asking Lonmin to reinstate his position and allow his elder brother, Siyabulela (32), to take over his job as a rock-drill operator. He has been unemployed since 2003.

– Loyiso Sidimba

Thabiso Mosebetsane

Thabiso’s 74-year-old mother still feels physical pain following the shock of being told her son was shot dead at Marikana.

“We only got to know he was dead when others were already buried,” she said.

“I’m sickly following his death. My body aches,” she told City Press at her modest homestead in the village of Matsheleng, near Mount Fletcher.

Thabiso’s mother said he was in his 50s and his death had left three of his four children orphaned.

After his first wife – the mother of his eldest three – died, he remarried and lived with his second wife, the mother of his youngest child, in the Nkaneng informal settlement near the mine at which he worked as a winch erector.

His youngest son from his first marriage, Tshepo, a Grade 10 pupil at Sidinane High School, used to visit his father in the school holidays.

“I’m at home now. Because my grandmother’s pension payout is still a few weeks away, I didn’t go to school,” Tshepo said.

Mrs Mosebetsane said her son last came home for his father’s funeral in December 2010.

“We’re grateful to the Sassa (SA Social Security Agency), which brought groceries,” she said, pointing to a food parcel delivered by government officials.

Thabiso was buried at his village yesterday.

– Loyiso Sidimba

Thabiso Thelejane (55)

Thabiso may have known that he was going to die.

In his modest shack in Nkaneng a few months before he was killed, he told his wife, MmaKopano, the mother of his only child, whom he lovingly always called “dear”: “Respect me when I’m dead. Respect my grave.”

He lived with his wife in Nkaneng near the Marikana mine, described as a “house of laughter” by a neighbour who had travelled from there to attend his funeral.

Their home, however, was in Paballong, near the Eastern Cape town of Matatiele.

Others described Thelejane and his wife as a rare sight for a couple their age.

“It’s rare to see grown-ups so in love like lovelorn teenagers,” said a neighbour.

“No man loved Jesus like Ntate Thabiso,” said one of his fellow parishioners at Paballong’s Roman Catholic Church.

Another of his colleagues at Lonmin, Nkopane Mokoena, said they nicknamed Thelejane “Mapopota”. Those in his village and close friends affectionately called him “Zem Zem”.

Mokoena said Thelejane was a kind man and a people person who did not hesitate to join the strike that led to his death because he wanted to support his colleagues’ cause.

He had only been working at the mine, where he was employed as a team leader, for a few months.

His family said that they hoped his blood and that of his 33 colleagues would water the tree of freedom for mine workers.

His wife’s sister, who only identified herself as Ms Gungubele, said Thelejane was like a brother, always willing to help whenever his in-laws were in need.

“He was inseparable from his wife,” she said.

– Loyiso Sidimba

Mafolisi Mabiya (28)

‘My son was very young, that’s all I know,” said Nosajini Mabiya, Mafolisi’s heartbroken mother.

Nosajini said her son’s main priority was to build their home – a two-roomed mud rondavel and a half-finished flatlet.

“My son was proud of his home. He dreamed of building a big house and fencing it. When I think about him, it pains me because I remember all the things he has done for me and all the things he still wanted to do,” she said.

Mafolisi has two sisters, one of whom travelled from Cape Town to mourn her brother at the village near the Mbhashe River in the Eastern Cape.

As his mother spoke, young men from the village were digging the final resting place for their friend.

The miner leaves behind a young wife, Pumeza, and their one-year-old boy, Buhle.

“He was a good father to our son. The anger we have is not directed at anyone, but it’s from the pain we feel,” said Pumeza.

Mafolisi was the only breadwinner in the family.

– Athandiwe Saba

Molefi Ntsoele (40)

It takes almost an entire day of driving on dangerously winding dirt roads snaking almost 3 000 metres up into the Maluti Mountains to reach the village of Ha Tebesi in Lesotho.

From Maseru, you reach the trading post of Semonkong two hours away.

There, you wait until late afternoon for a ride in a beat-up 4x4 that takes you on the final leg of the trip, on a precariously narrow rocky road that passes through tiny villages that cling to the mountain tops like ant hills.

In Maseru people mention one thing and one thing only about Semonkong – the road.

After an hour on a winding, rocky track that would give anyone with a phobia for heights a heart attack, a shepherd looks at our tiny Ford Fiesta and smiles.

“It’s not very far. Behind that snow- capped mountain,” he says.

In the end we cannot reach Ha-Tebesi.

A government official on a site visit says it’s still a further two hours away and there is no way in hell we’ll make it in our car.

Molefi made this long trip once every two months, carrying groceries and provisions for his family.

He was employed by Lonmin as a rock-drill operator at Karee mine in Marikana.

He died on August 16, together with 33 other miners, when police fired on striking workers.

His last journey home was in a helicopter, when his body was airlifted from Maseru to Ha-Tebesi for burial yesterday.

– Lucas Ledwaba

Telang Mohai (37)

The old man’s voice trembles slightly when he relates an incident he will remember forever.

His nephew Telang had come home to Lithoteng Village, Ha-Pita, near Maseru, Lesotho, to visit his family.

He had spent a long month away earning a living at Lonmin mine near Rustenburg, where he was employed as a general production hand.

Telang gave the old man a parcel containing a new pair of brown leather shoes and a green pair of pants.

“Uncle,” Mohai senior recalls his nephew’s exact words, “I want you to be the best-dressed old man in Lesotho.

I don’t want to see any older person dressed better than you.”

These words, Mohai senior says, define the kind of person Telang was, a kind and generous soul who lived for his family.

He loved spending time in the pastures of his home village, working in the fields and looking after his cattle and sheep. But most of all he loved his family, his wife and three daughters. He had been saving to complete a beautiful face-brick house for them on the property of his late parents home where he grew up.

“What has happened is very painful,” said Mohai senior.

“I’ve worked on the mines for 32 years and have been involved in many strikes. In those days, there were many ways of quelling
strikes – tear gas, police dogs, water cannons.

“The police would disperse people so that they would go home and calm down. But this one I’ve never seen in my whole life.”

– Lucas Ledwaba

Andries Ntshenyeho (42)

Andries had been about to quit his job as a rock-drill operator at Lonmin’s Karee mine when he was killed by police.

A father of five, who had toiled on the mines around Rustenburg since 1990, he had been finalising plans to resign and follow his dream – starting a transport company at home in the Gauteng town of Vanderbijlpark.

His son, Thabang, said: “He was planning to buy a 22-seater bus to transport kids to school. He had been saving for the bus for many years. He was going to use the profit there to finance other buses and thereby start a serious transport company.”

Thabang described his father as a “peaceful family man who never partied or drank alcohol. He took good care of us.

He was supportive and came home every month’s end. When he was around, he would spend the whole weekend with the family.”

His deepest desire, his son said, was for his children to go to university.

“He preached it every day. He liked school and seized every opportunity to tell us to study to avoid turning out as he had.

“He would sit me down and tell me about the difficulties, and how they are exploited in the mines.”

Now, Thabang says, he has to put his studies on hold and find a job to provide for his family.

– Sipho Masondo

Matlhomola Mabelane (46)

Matlhomola was on leave when he was killed, allegedly by striking miners.

The security guard at Lonmin’s Karee mine had been called in by his bosses to help as the uprising at the mine began, his weeping
83-year-old mother said this week.

According to reports at the time, Matlhomola was burned to death alongside his colleague Hassan Fundi that Saturday. Mine officials only discovered their bodies the following Monday.

His mother had begged him to stay on leave and not to become involved in the strike.

“I told him not to go but he insisted on going,” his mother said.

“He was dedicated to his job, his family and myself.

“He was loyal. He was supposed to come and see me, as he always did when he was off. I called and called, but he didn’t answer his phone.”

Matlhomola, who is survived by his wife, Linah, and three children with whom he lived in Damonsville, outside Brits, North West, was a “very good son”.

“He looked after me. He was at my service and on call every time I needed him.

“I will never find another son like him. He came to this house literally every Sunday.

“He wanted me to be happy all the time. He was special and everything to me,” she said.

– Sipho Masondo

Papi Ledingoane (24)

Lebo Ledingoane could not bear the trauma of talking about the death of her brother Papi, who was killed by police, along with 33 other miners on August 16.

Speaking from Wonderkop settlement near Lonmin’s Karee mine in Marikana, where her brother worked as an engineering assistant, she said: “The wounds are still fresh. We are not right as a family. No one knows how to handle this. We are all dealing with it in the best way we know.”

Lebo referred all queries to her uncle, Lucas Ledingoane, who began to weep when asked about Papi. “What can we say?

The pain is unbearable. He leaves behind three brothers and a sister, who depended on him. He has a two-year daughter, Tsenolo.”

Lucas said he first heard of Papi’s death when he saw his dead body on the front page of Daily Sun the day after the tragedy.

“You can only imagine how I felt as an uncle,” he said, crying. “He was a responsible young man. The wellbeing of this family rested on his shoulders. We are stranded without him”.

– Sipho Masondo

Van Wyk Sagalala (60)

Van Wyk was supposed to have married his longtime fiancée, Kedineetse Lydia Mohutsane (49), this month.

“I’m hurting, I don’t even know what to say about this loss,” she said at his funeral last Saturday, which was held in the village of Setlagole, outside Mahikeng, North West.

“We had been together for three years.

“He was easy-going and always kept order in the house.”

She last spoke to the father of two, who worked as an equipper at Lonmin’s Karee mine, at 1.40pm on Thursday, shortly before he was

“He told me they’re on the hill, but they’re just sitting there peacefully.

I pleaded with him not to go to the hill again, but he said I should fear nothing.

“Even when I told him I’m worried about their strike, he said that there’s nothing to worry about and that I should send him a callback at 7pm that evening so that he can give me a progress report,” she said.

“He had promised that we’ll go and sign for our marriage this month and wear wedding rings because he’s been saying that his employers want a copy of a marriage certificate.”

Van Wyk’s sister-in-law, Binky Metswamere, said he was always full of good advice.

“The one thing I remember about him is his painful words when he said he wished he could die before me, because at least he knows I’ll be able to take care of everything he leaves behind,” she said.

“These words have now become a reality two or three months later. It was sad to lose my brother, but it became possible to accept because of his prophetic words,” Binky said.

– Lucky Nxumalo

Babalo Mtshazi (26)

Babalo’s sisters are so sad they cannot bring themselves to even talk about their brother.

“This has really torn them up inside,” said Nozipho Mtshazi, their mother. “The slightest mention of his name brings them to tears. He loved them so.”

Babalo was one of six children.

“I moved to this village because my son, Babalo, had finally gotten a job. I knew then that he would help me build our family a place they can call home. He wanted to build me and his younger siblings a big home. He had so many dreams,” she said.

The three rondavels and the newly completed flat that house the family were all built by her son.

All his siblings, except for one, are studying and were dependent on him.

Babalo left Nkanga school in Grade 7 when he became aware that his mother and siblings were struggling to make ends meet.

He headed for the mines, leaving behind his love of athletics, at which he excelled.

“Just over a month before he died we had a house-warming ceremony which he organised and made sure that every person from the village was fed and had enough to drink.

That was the kind and generous boy my son was,” added Nozipho.

Her son was never married but was father to two boys, Lisakhanya (3) and Masixole (13).

“He loved his boys very much and he was very proud of them,” said Nozipho.

– Athandiwe Saba

Bonginkosi Yona (32)

Baby Mihle Yona, only 21 days old, suckles on his mother in Maqhusha village near Lady Frere in Eastern Cape, not knowing he will grow up without a father.

But the infant’s mother Nandipha knows all too well she will never see her beloved husband again.

The last time she saw Bonginkosi was in a mortuary near Lonmin’s Marikana mine in Rustenburg.

“He was only seven days old when his father was killed,” said Nandipha Yona of her infant son.

The couple have another son, five-year-old Babalo.

Her husband was a rock-drill operator who had worked at the Lonmin mine for just more than two years.

Today Nandipha is reminded of her husband by the local church at which he was a pastor.

As she speaks, the small, recently extended mud home is filled with members of Bonginkosi’s church, who beat drums and sing to remember him and to mourn with her.

The stern yet forever helpful Bonginkosi grew up in Ngcobo in Eastern Cape and moved to Lady Frere before he became a teenager.

When he married, the couple moved in with his sickly mother, who passed away last year.

Nandipha says her husband’s only dream was to watch his children grow and make something of themselves.

“He was a selfless man who said he didn’t want to die with his children so young,” she said, “I can’t see things getting any better from here. We have no one left.”

– Athandiwe Saba

Khanare Monesa (36)

He was looking forward to the birth of his first child in three months’ time. The birth of the child would also coincide with his first wedding anniversary. But these dreams were shattered by a bullet to the left side of his head.

Khanare returned to his village of Boroeng near Butha Buthe, Lesotho, in a coffin.

His young wife Mmathabisile (23), his brother Motlalepula (33) and their sister Makgotso (39) will no longer roll with laughter at his jokes.

They say he was a funny man who enjoyed teasing people.

He loved his family and his wife, and was beyond excited when he learnt she was pregnant with their first child.

He loved football too, a game he played well into his 30s for teams in Rustenburg where he worked as a rock-drill operator at Karee mine. He loved the skull and crossbones of his beloved Orlando Pirates and was always glued to the TV whenever they played.

He also loved his cattle and called to check if they were well looked after. Two of the cattle were sacrificed for his funeral.

Monesa was also saving money to renovate his two-roomed house.

“He just wanted people to be happy all the time. He was a people’s person. Now I don’t know if life is going to be the same without him,” said Motlalepula.

“My only hope is that when his child is born, he’ll look exactly like him. The child will be a reminder to all of us that we once had a beautiful brother who was killed.”

– Lucas Ledwaba

Semi Jokanisi (29)

Semi was a step away from taking his place as a married man in the Nqaqhumbe community in Lusikisiki, Transkei.

Semi and a winch operator at Lonmin were in lobola talks to bring a wife to his new house and had promised his father, Goodman, this would be done by December – his 30th birthday.

“I was excited that the family tree was growing, and that he had built a house for himself and was now going to get married,” his father said.

“But now all those dreams have been shattered because he was fighting to earn a decent living wage,” said Goodman.

Semi had five children. His eldest turned 11 in July. The youngest is six. “It is a big blow. We were the only two looking after our big family. I hope and pray our government doesn’t let such a thing happen again,” Goodman said.

Goodman is also a miner at Lonmin and counts himself lucky that he was on leave when tragedy struck.

– Thanduxolo Jika

Thembinkosi Gwelani (27)

The last time Musa Gwelani saw his cousin Thembinkosi was when he cradled him in his arms on the killing field of Marikana.

Thembinkosi had been shot in the back of the head and Musa tried to lift him, but he couldn’t and the police were fast approaching so he let him go and ran for his life.

“The next time I saw him was at a mortuary and there was a bullet wound in his head,” said Musa.

Thembinkosi was apparently caught in the hail of bullets while delivering food to the striking miners.

His death is devastating to his family. He had been at Lonmin to look for employment in order to help his six orphaned siblings.

Now the young siblings have no hope for survival in the poor Makhwaleni village in the Lusikisiki district of Eastern Cape.

The siblings – five of whom are unemployed and one still at school – will have to rely on their grandmother’s pension to survive.

“At least Themba sent money and took care of everything. As you can see, there is nothing in this house,” said one of the siblings who asked not to be named.

“We at times sleep on empty stomachs.”

The Gwelani family have had to turn to their neighbours to help them bury Thembinkosi.

The villagers collected enough money to lay him to rest.

Musa said Thembinkosi will be remembered for his passion for traditional Mpondo music, which he also performed, even in the mines.

– Thanduxolo Jika

Thobisile Zibambele (39)

Nonkululeko Zibambele holds dearly onto the last memory she has of her husband: giving him a warm bath at his two-roomed shack near Lonmin’s Marikana mine a little over a month ago.

Nonkululeko had visited Thobisile from the couple’s home in Eastern Cape and recalls that at the time, Thobisile, a staunch Pirates fan, was celebrating his team’s win over fierce rivals Kaizer Chiefs during the Carling Black Label Cup in July.

But Thobisile was also a family man who sacrificed everything for his four children by going to the mines to earn money to give them a better life.

“Our child is in matric this year and Thobisile wanted him to further his studies and not be frustrated by being unemployed,” she said.

“With that little money he was earning in the mines he was determined all his children should get a better education than him.

“But right now I am left with no hope because those people took away the only hope we had in this family,” said the widow.

Thobisile was born in Nyazi village in Lusikisiki in the Transkei and was not only providing for his wife and children but had started building a house for his mother, whom he had only met this year.

She had lived for years in Mpumalanga and family issues had resulted in them not meeting before.

But Thobisile had begun to heal a rift in the family and had planned a family gathering in December, where a sheep was to be slaughtered for a family reunion.

– Thanduxolo Jika

Janaveke Liau (47)

The last time Mamohai Mashale saw her uncle Janaveke was on August 14 when he returned to Rustenburg, where he worked as a rock-drill operator at Lonmin’s Karee mine.

As the only remaining sibling and breadwinner, Janaveke had gone home to the village of Likolobeng, in the heart of Lesotho’s Maluti Mountains, to participate in a cleansing ceremony for his late brother, a former mine worker who died in July, apparently from complications arising from a stroke he suffered seven years earlier.

After arriving in Rustenburg, Janaveke called Mashale.

“I am going to war,” he said. “We are on strike. But I promise you I won’t die. I will be fine.”

But Mashale was worried.

“Uncle, please come home,” she pleaded.

Janaveke did come home two weeks later – in a coffin.

Janaveke, a father of four children aged between 4 and 14, was described by Mashale as a caring and selfless man who also provided for his late elder brother’s wife and children.

“He was a very caring man. He was a very important man to many families because he did not discriminate against anyone. He was the breadwinner. We have lost our father, we are left as orphans. He was our trusted one, our provider. We don’t know what will become of us now,” said Mashale.

“He helped us in many ways, clothes, food, anything we asked for. He provided without any complaints. It did not matter if you were his
child or not, he did not discriminate.”

– Lucas Ledwaba

Mphumzeni Ngxande (38)

After years of struggling on the streets of Cape Town doing odd jobs, Mphumzeni finally got a break in 2008 when he packed his bags and went to work as a mine worker for Lonmin in North West.

Mphumzeni was born in Lujizweni village in Ngqeleni, 20km outside Mthatha in Eastern Cape but life was tough and there were no jobs for
him there.

His search for a living led him to Lonmin and his success in finding a job provided his family with their greatest hope for the future.

His father, Mboneni Ngxande, said it was difficult for the family to speak about their son, who was a rock-drill operator at Lonmin, as it was not acceptable in their culture to do so before a funeral.

However, Mboneni said his son had a wife, a child of his own and two other children who relied on his wages from the mines.

“He had warned us about the strike and raised fears that he might lose his job and have to come back home.

He said he had no choice but to join in the strike because everyone was involved,” his father recalled.

“I really got worried because we kept hearing on the radio there was violence at Marikana and that people were dying,” he said.

News of his death came as an enormous shock as the Mphumzeni they knew was a peaceful person.

His father said the family hoped their child had not died in vain and that life on the mines would improve for others from the villages as a result.

– Athandiwe Saba

Mvuyisi Pato (35)

Mvuyisi sweated on the mines to help give his sister a better life.

He chipped in every month to assist his parents pay for her fees at Fort Hare University in Alice in the Eastern Cape.

The 35-year-old Mvuyisi was born in Mbhobheni Village in Mbizana in the Eastern Cape and his death has left his parents with no idea where they will get the extra money they need to get their daughter through her second-year studies.

Mvuyise’s mother, Manqupha Pato, said her son was dedicated to his family and ensured that his younger siblings got a chance to get a better education.

“He was caring and not selfish. Even though he was building his own house, he made sure that his sister, who is at Fort Hare, got all the financial support she needed.

“It is very painful to us that we have lost him as you can see his father is a pensioner and I am in no position to work,” said Manqupha.

She said Mvuyisi and his two older siblings had a tough upbringing because the family was poor and this had forced him and his brother, Vuyisile, to look for work on the mines in the North West.

Vuyisile, who also works at Lonmin as a rock-drill operator, said he had just left Mvuyisi the day before the shootings to visit the family.

“The strike wasn’t ending and I told him I was going home. He said he was staying behind with the rest of the guys.

“But he told me to tell our parents not to worry,” Vuyisile recalled.

“It was a shock to get a call from the other guys telling me he had been killed,” said Vuyisile.

He will remember his brother for his bravery.

“He died for all of us in the mines.”

– Thanduxolo Jika

Mzukisi Sompeta (37)

Mzukisi’s family, from the dirt-poor kwaDiki Village in the Lusikisiki district of Eastern Cape, was expecting him home soon, bearing gifts as he always did.

Instead, the last time they saw him was when they buried him last Saturday.

Mzukisi, a rock-drill operator, died at Marikana and, like many who fell with him, his passing leaves a chasm in his rural home.

In the villages of Lusikisiki, families mark their rise from poverty by building brick homes to replace their traditional rondavels.

For the Sompetas, this was an ongoing project fuelled by Mzukisi’s earnings from Lonmin.

He was due to come home for his annual leave only a week after the day that he died, where he would have continued extending the family rondavel with brick buildings.

But those dreams died with him at Marikana.

His family remembers him as a man who loved to sing, especially popular church hymns. – Thanduxolo Jika

Ndikhokhele Yehova - even though he could never bring himself to admit that he was not a great singer.

“As you can see his father can’t do anything. He walks with a stick and has to be assisted to go anywhere. He is just a pensioner who is not well, so Mzukisi was now the one who was heading this household. None of my other two children are working so we are back to struggling because the family is big,” said Mzukisi’s mother Mabhengu Sompeta.

Dressed in her black mourning garmet and sitting on a mattress in the rondavel, Mabhengu mourned the loss of a man who had brought peace to their lives.

Phumzile Sokhanyile (48)

Phumzile was so loved by his family that his mother collapsed and died when she heard he had been killed at Marikana.

Phumzile had many nicknames in Mdumazulu village in the Transkei, but most remember him as uMshumayeli (The Preacher) who would grab every opportunity at a funeral to stand and quote Bible verses.

The nickname still makes people smile in the village as they recall a younger Phumzile, who would rather herd cattle than head to church on a Sunday with his grandfather and his siblings.

“If there was ever a funeral in the village he would be present and would take a chance and preach, which was very funny because he never used to like church,” said his sister Nozukile.

“He made us laugh and everyone in the village liked him because of his jokes and his caring nature,” she said.

Nozukile said her brother resembled their father so much he would sometimes claim to be him when teasing his mother.

“He was very close to his mother and made her laugh every time he came back home. He would say ‘umyeni wakho ubuyile (your husband has returned)’ and our mother would give him a very big smile and hug,” said Nozukile.

She said it was no coincidence their mother collapsed and died after hearing of his death. He was so central to her life.

Phumzile had hopes of taking his daughter, who is in matric this year, through university, an opportunity he had never had.

– Tnanduxolo Jika

Mgcineni Noki (34)

Mgcineni from Thwalikhulu in Mqanduli, Eastern Cape, was “The Man in the Green Blanket”.

Mgcineni, although at the time his identity was not known, was a prominent leader known only by the green blanket he wore about his shoulders, He featured prominently in TV footage leading up to the shooting of 34 miners at Marikana.

When the guns fell silent, he was among the dead.

He was affectionately known as “Mambush” and his family say it was no mistake he was chosen by other miners to be their leader. It was an extension of who he was.

“Our parents died a long time ago. My elder brother and his wife had to take care of us, but they also later passed away. Mambush was the father here. He took care of us and this home. We have nothing without him now,” said his sibling Nolufefe Noki.

The 30-year-old miner had been working at Lonmin since 2007.

“He was a driven man who was promoted in a year and received training to become a rock-drill operator,” said his cousin Mbulelo Noki, also one of the striking miners.

“Mgcineni was a very caring young man who never gave the village any problems. He even used to buy his former teachers cold drinks when he was home,” said villager Nowathile Ngcangwe, who went to mourn with the Noki family.

“I want people to know that we are very hurt and broken by what happened. People now think my brother was a violent person.

He wasn’t,” said Nolufefe. “I remember he would be the one who would calm us down and ask that we always keep the peace among us,”
she said.

He was a great Pirates fan and also loved weightlifting. He was married and had a three-year-old child, Asive.

Mbulelo said the last time he saw his cousin was on August 13.

“He was different, I didn’t like the person I saw. We were supposed to go home to our cousin’s funeral, but he didn’t even want to speak about it.

“He was taking his role as the strike leader very seriously,” said Mbulelo.

– Athandiwe Saba

Mongezeleli Ntenetya (34)

As the only breadwinner for 15 people, Mongezeleli was the champion of his family.

At his relatively young age, the rock-drill operator had to provide for his mother, his wife, his three children and his eight younger siblings.

His was the only income for the family home which lies off a gravel road in the village of Nqabarha near Dutywa in Eastern Cape.

He had worked at the mine since the age of 22.

“He was a humble man, who took care of us all,” said Mongezeleli’s wife Nosipho, her eyes bloodshot and swollen from crying.

The family find it hard to even talk of their lost relative.

Mongezeleli’s mother, Nowathile, said her son’s only dream was to educate his siblings.

“He wanted such a better future for his sisters and brothers and they all looked up to him,” she said.

He was not a miner who would return home only once a year.

“He came home as regularly as he could because he wanted to make sure the garden was ploughed and that everything was in order,” added Nosipho.

Orlando, one of his younger brothers, said he did not know what life would be like now that his brother was gone.

“Though my brother didn’t have much, whatever we asked for he would give it to us. He was a kind man, a big man who loved making everyone laugh. But right now none of us at home can really talk about it. It hurts,” he said.

– Athandiwe Saba

Anele Mdizeni (29)

Anele from Cwede near Elliotdale in the Eastern Cape had an upbringing where laughter was treasured.

After his death, the family gathered in a rondavel lit with a single candle, made jokes and decided to remember only the good times they enjoyed with him in his short life.

Anele grew up in Cwede and started working at the mine at the age of 22.

His brother, Vuyisani, remembers Anele as a talkative young man who went out of his way to make people laugh.

“We would be in stitches all day. We’d go hungry because of laughter. When he saw his jokes had made us hungry, he would dig into his pocket and buy us bread,” remembers cousin Luvuyo Mveli.

“We were expecting so much. He was here just this past Easter. My son had big dreams. He wanted to buy a car, especially to transport me around,” said his mother, Notshovile Mdizeni.

“My brother wanted a good life for his family and he knew he had to work hard to achieve his dreams. He took great pride in his job,” said Vuyisani.

Luvuyo tries to explain the day they were told Anele had been killed. “It was a painful day. Everyone was wailing. I can’t explain further because it hurts.”

Anele, a Pirates fan, married in 2009 and has a six-year-old child, Asisipho.

– Athandiwe Saba

Mongezeleli Ntenetya (34)

As the only breadwinner for 15 people, Mongezeleli was the champion of his family.

At his relatively young age, the rock-drill operator had to provide for his mother, his wife, his three children and his eight younger siblings.

His was the only income for the family home which lies off a gravel road in the village of Nqabarha near Dutywa in Eastern Cape.

He had worked at the mine since the age of 22.

“He was a humble man, who took care of us all,” said Mongezeleli’s wife Nosipho, her eyes bloodshot and swollen from crying.

The family find it hard to even talk of their lost relative.

Mongezeleli’s mother, Nowathile, said her son’s only dream was to educate his siblings.

“He wanted such a better future for his sisters and brothers and they all looked up to him,” she said.

He was not a miner who would return home only once a year.

“He came home as regularly as he could because he wanted to make sure the garden was ploughed and that everything was in order,” added Nosipho.

Orlando, one of his younger brothers, said he did not know what life would be like now that his brother was gone.

“Though my brother didn’t have much, whatever we asked for he would give it to us. He was a kind man, a big man who loved making everyone laugh. But right now none of us at home can really talk about it.

It hurts,” he said.

– Athandiwe Saba

Bongani Nqongophele (28)

Bongani’s wife was so distraught at the news of his death that she tried to take her own life by drinking pesticide.

Nosipho Ntonga, Bongani’s sister-in-law, said: “His wife couldn’t take the news. She is so weak right now. She tried to commit suicide.”

His mother was so shocked she also required medical care.

Bongani had been working at Lonmin for a year as a driller after leaving his sparsely populated village near Elliotdale in the Eastern Cape.
There he had married his wife, Nombulelo, in 2008 and the couple were devoted to each other.

“I would trade places with my brother-in-law in a heartbeat if I could,” said Nosipho.

“He was very young and had so much he was looking forward to. My sister is at the doctor now because she is so weak.

“I don’t want her to find me in tears like this. I have to be strong for her.” She wept.

The father, husband and brother had many plans for himself and his family.

“He had just started to build his own house down the road from our home.

“He was planning to buy a car and make a good life for his wife and child,” said Khanyisa Nqongophele, Bongani’s sister.

He had a five-year-old child, Anga.

When he was at home, he loved nothing more than to play with the children and to tend to his father’s cattle.

“Every December, the whole family would come home. I don’t know how it will be this year with our father gone and now our youngest brother.

“This is very painful,” said Khanyisa, who cried as she spoke.

– Athandiwe Saba

Ntandazo Nokhamba (36)

Ntandazo had been a machine operator at the Lonmin mine since 2006.

Back at his home village of Ngcolorha in Libode, Eastern Cape, his uncle Madaka Nokhamba remembers a man who respected traditional customs and behaviour.

“Every time he came home the first thing he did was to go to every home in this village and let people know that he was home. He was a disciplined boy who followed in our footsteps,” he said.

Ntandazo’s older brother Malokwane admitted that the day he heard his brother had passed he “wept bitterly”.

He said: “He was a big part of this village. He loved the youth. Last time he was here he said he would buy the highest scoring (village) player a pair of soccer boots.

That was his last promise to the kids,” said Malokwane.

Ntandazo’s sister Nophelo said: “He spent three years in Johannesburg looking for work.

“We prayed every day that he would be finally hired. He was the father of this home.

“Though I’m widowed he still took care of me and my family. He also took care of his elder brother’s family.

“We have nothing without my brother. It has been very difficult without him.

“My mother even tried to hang herself after she heard the news. She is distraught.”

Ntandazo was married to Nosakhe Nokhamba and they had five children: Khuselwa (13), Siziphiwe (11), Liyabonga (7), Zozibini (2) and Elam (1).

– Anthandiwe Saba

Fezile Saphendu (23)

Fezile left his quiet village of Kwayimani in Mqanduli in the Eastern Cape two years ago to find work at the mine.

“He was such a hard-working boy. He passed so well in Grade 12 but, unfortunately, he didn’t have the money to study further. That’s why he decided to go work at that mine,” said his sister-in-law, Noingilane Saphendu.

Fezile was a “people person” who always had advice for others.

“He wanted to become a social worker. He would have been very good at it. He had a talent for dealing with people,“ said Noingilane.

The family members gathered on the lawn in front of Fezile’s newly painted home fondly remembered his antics.

“When he came home, he used to buy us all these sweet things.

“Anything we asked for here at home he would provide. He loved biscuits and sweets,” laughed Nokulunga Saphendu, another sister-in-law.
“I would be satisfied if my brother-in-law had been ill.

“If we at least had time to say goodbye to him...but for him to be taken away from us like this, we will never heal,” said Nokulunga.

She said although Fezile’s father had had two wives and many children, Fezile loved all his siblings equally.

– Athandiwe Saba

Nkosiyabo Xalabile (31)

Nkosiyabo worked side by side with his younger brother, Mandlenkosi (25), at the Lonmin mine.

The brothers are from Manganyela near Elliotdale in the Eastern Cape.

Mandlenkosi remembers his older brother as someone he could talk to, always depend on and who would protect him.

They stood together on strike at Marikana from day one of the labour action. Mandlenkosi remembered trying to find his brother on the day of the shooting. He was nowhere to be found.

Then all of a sudden he said he felt very cold.

“I just became so thirsty. My heartbeat became very irregular, and at the pit of my stomach I knew he was gone even before our pastor, at her house, told me she found his name on the deceased list in the hospital,” he said.

Nkosiyabo leaves behind his young wife, Lilitha, whom he married in a green-and-white wedding in July.

He was a religious man and an avid churchgoer.

He loved soccer and was a part-time coach of a team called the Eleven Strikers.

His mother, Nonezile, found it hard to talk. She said her son loved her beyond words.

Now all Nkosiyabo’s responsibilities rest on the shoulders of his younger brother.

– Athandiwe Saba

Mphangeli Thukuza (42)

In the small Transkei village of Nquba, Mphangeli had a big reputation. He was a respected Pondo man with two wives and six children living in a beautiful village home.

Local men speak of Mphangeli’s charm and smooth talking – especially with women.

He earned respect as he was able to provide for his large family and was working towards buying a car. His three brothers sang his praises.

“He was a good man and worked hard. Those two wives, whom he loved dearly, are really hurting,” said brother Jamela Thukuza.

“He did everything for them with his own money and all that is gone. It is painful because we have also lost a brother and our father has lost a son. We fear his death may have brought poverty to his house,” said Jamela.

Mphangeli’s brothers also work on mines in North West.

They demand that a relative continue their brother’s legacy by taking his job as an operator at Lonmin.

– Thanduxolo Jika

Hassan Duncan Fundi (46)

Hassan Fundi was one of the security guards working for Lonmin. He was killed five days before police opened fire on the protesting miners.

Hassan’s wife, Aisha, with whom he lived in a suburb of Rustenburg, told City Press this week that she could not reveal any information about her husband, or provide a picture of him, before a family meeting to be held at the weekend.

However, according to reports at the time, Hassan and his colleague, Frans Matlhomola Mabelane, were burned to death on the Saturday and mine officials only discovered their bodies the following Monday.

One of them had been reportedly shot dead – five times in his upper body – allegedly by striking mine workers, and the other had been hacked.

– Nicki Güles

Sello Lepaaku (45)

Warrant Officer Sello was allegedly hacked to death by striking Lonmin workers.

He was buried at Seabo Village in Siyabuswa, Mpumalanga, on August 19.

Sello’s family and his widow, Petunia, were too grief-stricken to speak to City Press.

However, at his funeral, National Police Commissioner Riah Phiyega described him as a hero and a “dedicated officer with integrity”.

His commanding officer said he was a disciplined, quiet man who worked hard.

Sello, a policeman of 24 years’ standing, was attached to the public order policing unit at Phokeng, North West.

His family battled to retain their composure at the grave site during the officer’s salute and even Phiyega shed tears.

– Sizwe Sama Yende

Tsietsi Monene (47)

Career police officer Tsietsi reportedly died from gashes all over his body and two holes in his chest. His face had been hacked, allegedly by miners.

Tsietsi, a warrant officer with 21 years’ experience, was connected to the Mpumalanga public order policing unit.

His unnamed cousin – who spoke at the funeral of Warrant Officer Sello Lepaaku, with whom Tsietsi died – said he had been told by a police officer that Tsietsi died because his colleagues had been too far away to help him.

“A policeman who was in the Nyala (with Tsietsi’s group) told me he had to fight to keep the door closed because they wanted to come in and kill him too,” The Star reported the cousin saying.

Tsietsi leaves behind five children – aged between 12 and 23 – and a grandson. He is survived by his wife, also a police officer, his mother, a brother and a sister. – Nicki Güles

Makhosandile Mkhonjwa (29)

Makhosandile toiled in the mines to realise his one dream: to build his family a beautiful home in Madiba Village in Mbizana in the Eastern Cape.

Makhosandile cared for a family of 10 people, including his two children who are still at school.

His wife, Nokwanela Phakathi, said he was going to build a house for the family – including his mother – as their traditional rondavels could no longer withstand heavy rains and extreme weather.

She had no idea how they were going to survive now that he was dead.

“Things were tough even when he was still alive, but we could survive. We are left with nothing. We buried his father in March and now it is him. There is no man to take care of the family. They have taken the only person we were relying on,” said Nokwanela.

Makhosandile left his village in 2007, only kilometres away from the village home of struggle icon Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, in search of a job at the mines.

The barren rooms of the family’s home tells its own story of a history of daily struggles.

Makhosandile was a staunch churchgoer who, says his family, was loving, kind and never got involved in violence.

– Thanduxolo Jika