Lesotho’s Marikana widows bare all

By Ntsebeng Motsoeli

MASERU — A 25kg bag of maize meal, a 12.5kg of bread flour and groceries that include canned food, cooking oil and other household essentials are the gift from Lonmin Platimum Mine authorities to each of Lesotho’s four widows whose husbands were shot dead during a wildcat strike at South Africa’s Marikana Mine last year.

During the strike 34 miners, four of them from Lesotho, were killed in a clash between the miners and members of the South Africa Police Service.

While the Marikana Commission of Inquiry is still trying to get to the bottom of events on the fateful August 16, 2012, the mine authorities have taken it upon themselves to assist families of the deceased men in anyway they can.

Apart from the food parcels the mine has taken the responsibility of paying school fees for the children of the deceased men until they reach university level.

The widows might be grateful that the mine authorities are reaching out to them but they say it will never be to an extent their late husbands were providing for their families.

’Matšepang Ntsoele who is in her 40s says no one will ever provide for herself and her four children.

The food parcel she is getting from the mine is nothing compared to the groceries she used to buy for Christmas when her husband was alive.

“I used to join societies in the village where we collected money to buy groceries in bulk in December.

“We bought plenty of food and other necessities that would carry us for over three months.

“No one will ever be able to do what my husband did,” says Ntsoele.

She says they appreciate what the mine is doing for them in the meantime while they are awaiting deliberations of the commission to see if anything will come out in their favour.

“We understand that our husbands were holding the strike outside of their work premises.

“We appreciate what the mine bosses are doing for us but we feel that someone has to take the responsibility to fill up some of the gaps created by our husbands’ deaths,” she says.

’Masebolai Liau says she cannot wait for the commission to make a final decision.

Liau and other women have been assisted with flight tickets to and from Johannesburg sponsored by the Lonmin management to attend the commission proceedings.

However, she says they have to pay the taxi fares from their homes to the airport and back.

“We come from as far as Butha-Buthe and Semonkong.

“The taxi prices are very heavy for us especially now when we do not know if we are getting any compensation from anyone,” says Liau.”

Mathabizile Monese says she can only start enjoying some of the benefits if the mine keeps its word about employing immediate relatives of the deceased men.

“I don’t have children so I do not get to enjoy the benefit where the mine pays school fees for the children of the deceased men.

“I can only start to get something if they (mine authorities) call us to give us jobs like they promised,” says Monese.

Lonmin Mine communications and public affairs vice president, Lerato Molebatsi, says the mine is committed to assisting the women and their families to ensure that they lead better lives even in the absence of their husbands.

“It is not just about the food hampers.

“We gave a commitment that we would build a computer lab at the children’s school.

“We would like to do that,” Molebatsi says.

“We have also promised to give the women jobs at Lonmin.

“Those who cannot come can nominate a person who can work on their behalf so that they can continue to earn money,” she says.

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