Ten years after Marikana tragedy, widow recalls begging husband to leave strike

Ten years after her husband was killed during a wage strike at Marikana, Nokuthula Zibambele, relives the fraught final conversations she had with him before his death.

Nokuthula Zibambele lost her husband in the 2012 Marikana massacre. Picture: Abigail Javier/Eyewitness News

MARIKANA - On the morning of 16 August 2012, a woman’s phone rang and this would be the last conversation she had with her late husband, Thobisile Zibambele.

Thobisile had started working at Lonmin, now Sibanye-Stillwater, in Marikana in 2009.

His wife, Nokuthula Zibambele, said that he earned only R4,000 at the time and had always been concerned about his inability to sufficiently support his wife and 10 children.

Zibambele was shot twice – in his shoulder and thigh.

"He phoned me the morning of the 16th telling me he is going back to the koppie where they were sitting. He said they are still waiting to be addressed by the employer. He had not come yet. He said to me that he had left all his precious belongings, such as ID, with a relative who also lived in Marikana. And that was our last conversation but I kept begging him, please come back home," Nokuthula said.

This would be the last time she spoke to her husband.

He did return home to Lusikisiki in the Eastern Cape weeks later but he was in a coffin, accompanied by officials from Teba Financial Services.

Two days prior to that last conversation on the 16th, Thobisile voiced his concerns.

"On the Tuesday he called me and said on Monday three people were killed during a march to Karee shaft. He said he was in pain because he did not think people would be killed. After all, all they wanted was a peaceful strike for better wages. I said to him if the police are being attacked and killed, why not come back. He said, 'I can’t come back because the money we earn is too little, I also want an increase'. He said: 'Even you can see that the money we earn is too little. R4,000 is just not enough money, I can’t come back because I also want what the others want.'"

To some, 34 is just a number.

Up until that Saturday, the 28th of August, to Nokuthula too, 34 was just a number.

It was only when she attended a local funeral and was told that the mineworkers who were striking had been killed that it sunk in. She knew that her husband was hurt but didn’t think he’d been killed.

He never called again. Ten years later, life has to continue, albeit hard.

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