The 14 seconds that changed lives forever
The bullet that killed Mongezeleli Ntenetya didn’t stop in Marikana: it tore into the hearts of 13 other people in an Eastern Cape village.
These are the 13 people in Nqabarha near Dutywa that this one man, this miner, supported and loved – and who was their only hope in all the world.
Another bullet from the killing fields of the Lonmin mine also shattered the life of a mother in Mdumazulu village, more than 1 000 km away. She dropped dead, her family say, when she heard that her beloved son, Phumzile Sokhanyile, had died. Her son was more than a son. He reminded her of the husband she had loved and whom she had also lost.
‘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 just give him a very big smile and hug,’ recalls his mourning sister, Nozukile Sokhanyile, in Mdumazulu village in the Eastern Cape.
These are the uncounted victims of the Marikana tragedy which culminated on August 16 with the deaths of 34 miners in a barrage of police fire. Another 10 – including two police officers – died in the days leading up to the shooting.
An official inquiry will establish who is to blame, but there is another story to be told – the story of the fallen of Marikana.
Reporters from City Press and Media24 Investigations have travelled across South Africa, to Swaziland and to Lesotho, to put faces to the names of the dead, to tell their stories and to understand the scale of the sorrow which followed the last echo of the guns.
The truth is that Marikana did not claim 44 victims. There are scores more.
Miner Bongani Nqongophele’s wife back home in a village near Elliotdale in the Eastern Cape could not face the news of his death and turned to pesticide as she tried to end her pain forever. She survived.
The stories – whether of the police warrant officers Sello Lepaaku and Tsietsi Hendrik Monene, or of the scores of miners – have a common thread. It’s a thread of unspeakable heartbreak, of families faced with uncertain futures and of dreams brutally dashed.
Kedineetse Lydia Mohutsane (49) was due to have married miner Van Wyk Sagalala this month. That dream died at Marikana. “I’m hurting, I don’t even know what to say about this loss,” she said.
In the Swaziland village of Dvokolwako, about 60km from Manzini, the impact of the death of 50-year-old miner Stelega Eric Gadlela is beyond measure. The father of 11 children, aged between four and 28, he was his large family’s sole breadwinner.
‘He was our only hope. He was responsible for everything in the house,’ said Gadlela’s daughter, Hlengiwe (28).
There are more victims of Marikana.
Baby Mihle Yona, was only seven days old when his father, Bonginkosi Yona (32), was killed. In Maqhusha village, near Lady Frere in the Eastern Cape, Nandipha Yona, the infant’s mother, cannot imagine life without her beloved husband.
‘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. I don’t know what I will do.’
But amid the tears there is warmth too: the stories to be expected of men ingrained in the lives of their loved ones; men who were away from home for months at a time and whose every moment back with them was treasured.
Young men like Anele Mdizeni (29), from Cwele near Elliotdale in the Eastern Cape, whom friends and family remembered as a wonderful joker.
‘We would be in stitches all day,’ recalled his cousin Luvuyo Mveli. ‘We’d actually go hungry because of laughter. When he saw that his jokes had made us hungry he would dig into his pocket and buy us some bread.’
All these stories put a face to the faceless.
Remember ‘The Man in the Green Blanket’, the enigmatic leader at Marikana whose identity was a great mystery? His name is Mgcineni Mambush Noki and he is from Thwalikhulu in the Mqanduli district in the Eastern Cape.
At home he is remembered as a natural leader who embraced responsibility. He was a Pirates fan who also loved weightlifting. He was married and had a three-year-old child, Asive.
‘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 his sister Nolufefe Noki.
Police officers… a security guard… miners.
Husbands… sons… fathers… lovers.
These are the faces of Marikana.
Reporting by: Athandiwe Saba, Thanduxolo Jika, Lucas Ledwaba, Sizwe sama Yende, Nicki Gules, Loyiso Sidimba and Sipho Masondo