An occasional journal of pictures and words.
The Death of a Miner

After the ritual at the site of his death, the white hearse took Andries Motlapula Ntsenyeho’s corpse away from Marikana and headed east and then south. Hours later, it was again slowly negotiating dirt roads, but this time in Sasolburg, a chemico-industrial town built to host a plant for refining oil from coal. The township of France is an expanse of depressingly similar cheap RDP houses.

The settlement had its origins in 1998 as shacks built on as land occupied by people from Zamdela township as well as those forced off farms by lack of jobs. The name was because in 1998, the football World Cup was held in France. Later the RDP houses were built, as the needs of those people for land was accepted.

Ntsenyeho’s body was delivered to his widow and five children at house 11356. It was here that an overnight vigil was held, the coffin behind a screen and women wrapped in blankets sitting on the floor with their legs to one side, squashed together in the tiny room.

It was the deceased’s brother, Tebogo, who washed the body. He saw three wounds, one at the juncture of the neck and collarbone, and two in the upper thigh/groin area on the left leg.

Early the next morning, a bitter wind whipped the sand and ash into the eyes of women preparing large three-legged pots of food. Men gathered under the stark branches of a peach tree that prevaricated on budding. They were Ntsenyeho’s miner comrades and they were angry.

Some spoke isiXhosa, others Sesotho. Sam, a bespectacled man, said that the miners would not return to work until their demand for R12,500 nett pay was met. “It would be a betrayal of our fallen comrade.”

All agreed on this, and Sam further voiced that they would stop the ten percent or so who have returned to work. Another chimed in “We pay Zuma’s salary so that he can have all his wives.”

Sam, “I and my friends will never again vote ANC. Never.” On being quizzed as to whom they might vote for, he responded “No-one.”

Their friends body was found at Small Koppie they said; where they had prayed the day before. He was one of the 14 who were killed there. They were convinced police had murdered Andries Ntsenyeho.

Let us see what we can find out about this man, who lived between Marikana and Sasolburg.

Well, he was 42 years old and hailed from Meqheleng, in the Eastern Free State, before moving to Zamdela township where he hoped to get work. In 1998, he was one of the first to erect a shack at France.

He was married and had five children. He worked for Lonmin at the Marikana. His Lonmin employee number was 20039750, and he was employed on July 22, 2011. According to his April pay slip, his basic wage was R5,197. After overtime, stope bonuses, housing allowance, etc, and various deductions and tax, his nett pay was R6,742. He was a rock drill handler or operator.

As such, he had the toughest job on the mine, and was one of the core group of workers who began the strike for more better wages. He was a paid up member of NUM, the National Union of Mineworkers.

He was a key figures in the strike, a leading member of the informal inner council of men from underground. One of his fellow miners, let’s call him Mpo (his real name is known to DM), says that Ntsenyeho was in charge of miner discipline. On the 16th he was to ensure no-one ran; that they stayed on the mountain. But then all hell broke loose.

In the chaos that followed the initial shooting Mpo says he saw Ntsenyeho running north east, towards Small Koppie.  He believes that Ntsenyeho was identified and targeted by police.

The police certainly knew who the leadership was – they met in tight huddles in front of the mass of the miners on several occasions. And they might well have decided to target the leadership.

Other witnesses say that Xolano Nzuza, the most prominent of the leadership, was followed by a police helicopter as he fled across the veld. He is said to only have managed to escape when another miner gave him his shirt to throw police off his tracks.

Another prominent leader killed was a man called Mambush. He was allegedly one of those killed by the police. Versions of how this happened differ; some say he was killed in the first fusillade of gunfire, others that he was wounded and taken to hospital where a lethal injection was administered. I do not give credence to this, but in light of the fact that many of the miners believe this to be true, I have decided to include this view. This version is based on the belief that Mambush, Ntsenyeho and three other key leaders were protected by some secret and powerful intelezi, or magic potion

Whatever the truth of what happened to Ntsenyeho and Mambush, the release of the autopsy reports will lay the debate to rest.

Under a blue and white tent that subsumed most of the front yard, the miners stood close around the coffin. His wife sat among the women of the family in the front two row of chairs. One by one, mourners passed by the coffin, peering at the glass-covered face of Ntsenyeho, bidding a last farewell.

Ntsenyeho’s remains were then carried to the hearse, which led the funeral procession to the cemetery. Friends stayed behind to spray down the dusty yard and wash off the traditional mourning whitewash from the windows of the house; cleansing the house of death.


  • Shaheed Mahomed

    it seeems here was the man with the green blanket……..

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