On Monday, 21 June, the Association of Mineworkers and Construction (Amcu) declared an end to the five-month strike in the platinum sector. Since miners began returning to work, there has been an atmosphere of jubilation in the platinum belt. PONTSHO PILANE spoke to residents of Marikana about how they made ends meet during the longest strike the country has ever seen.
Most of the shops were closed. My business suffered so much, but I didn’t close shop because I had to make as [much] as possible. I started charging way less than I used to, on some occasions I would charge as little as R5. So now that the strike is over, I can see my business slowly pick up and return to where it was before. This makes me happy and less stressed.
I can’t even answer your question of ‘How was business?’ There was nothing like business here in Marikana. It was really bad. As a herbalist, I work a lot with people and I could not just desert them. I used to give out free medicines because people needed it. Now that the strike is over, many have promised me that they will come pay me. That excites me!
We are glad the strike is over… the violence will end. We couldn’t study at night because there was always noise. Although we were not directly affected by the strike, we know learners at school who were. It was sad, they didn’t have money for transport or for lunch. We also heard that some girls started selling their bodies just so that they could have lunch money. The guys would loot from foreign nationals’ spaza shops to get some food. Now that the strike is over people are happy, they are less stressed than before. All the violence and intimidation has stopped. And hopefully the girls who were prostituting themselves have also stopped.
The past five months have been unbearable. Although I am not a miner, I couldn’t go to work. There was so much intimidation, I stopped going to work because on my way there other miners chased me and tried to attack me. Since then, I didn’t even try to go, it was not safe. I haven’t been able to send money back home to my children, I feel like I have failed them. The strike is over but I have not even benefited from it, and I haven’t even been paid in months. I am one of the fortunate ones not to have debts because my interests would be high. I am not happy the strike is over, I have nothing to show for it.