Twenty-six-year-old Thabile Mpumza 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 Xolelwa, his sister.
His family said he had only joined the protest after the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) promised to help him get his job back.
Mpumza, 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 seven and 13.
He had dropped out of school in Grade 7 after his parents’ deaths as “he could no longer afford school fees and 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 other 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.
Mpumza died a few days after his grandfather passed away, and 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.
“This is the family’s request,” said Siyabulela, who has been unemployed since 2003. – Loyiso Sidima