The day before he was shot, rock drill operator Janaveke Raphael reassured his niece that although he was “going to war”, he would be fine.
“We are on strike,” he told Mamohai Mashale by telephone. “But I promise you, I won’t die. I will be fine.”
The last time Mashale had seen her uncle was on August 14, shortly before he returned to Rustenburg where he worked as a rock drill operator at Lonmin’s Karee mine.
As the only remaining sibling and breadwinner, Liau 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 mineworker who died in July, apparently from complications arising from a stroke.
After arriving in Rustenburg, Liau had called Mashale, telling her he was on strike. Despite his reassurances, Mashale said she had pleaded for her uncle to return home.
Liau did go home two weeks later – but in a coffin. He died the day after he had spoken to his niece, when police opened fire on the strikers at Marikana.
Liau, a father of four children aged between four 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 … He was the breadwinner. We have lost our father. We are left as orphans with no one to look after us. 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