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It’s a long drive to Marikana, a boring and confusing one actually, but once you cross the railway lines in the little town’s hub, an abrupt greyness greets you. There are factory chimneys belching clouds of smoke, Eskom substations and a stream of power lines, grey soil, grey skies all giving off a feeling of emptiness and hopelessness. That’s how you know you’ve reached Nkaneng – which translated into English, means a place of defiance. Judging by recent events there, that spirit is very strong in Nkaneng’s people.
At first people seem to be going on with their daily activities but closer to the grey shacks of the Nkaneng community, it becomes clear people are actually leaving their tasks and heading to a Legotla. It’s not just the men; the women are marching with them in unison, defying roles generally associated with women in rural areas.
It’s at the Legotla, where the tragic showdown between striking miners and police officers that left 34 men dead is being discussed with some of the country’s political leaders. It’s also where 39-year-old Melita Ramosedi is the most vocal. She found the inspiration to become more involved in her community when she saw bodies lying across a veld just outside her house, after a clash between miners and police officers.
“Lonmin needs to understand we also feel our men’s frustrations. Men can’t raise families on four thousand rand a month,” she says. She continues to say, “The worst thing is that miners spend their days underground drilling and moving hard rock, but have nothing to show for it.”
It was only after being sent back and forth at the hospital that she learnt of his fate. Mdze says the pain of his death haunts her. She can’t sleep and feels powerless about her future. “He did everything for me and his family back home. Even bought the clothes I have on."
The women of Marikana agree their men were the victims of a cruel system. They were fighting to improve a community without proper electricity, water supplies and tarred roads.