The forgotten people of Marikana


Lesedi Thutlwane (28) is walking across Marikana Shopping Centre. Wearing workman’s pants and a sweater, he is on his way to his house in Maditlhokwa, about 3km away from the heart of Marikana. Lesedi is soft spoken; a man of very few words. He told PONTSHO PILANE about how he gets by in Marikana.

I have been living in Maditlhokwa all my life; my father was a caretaker at the local mission church and my mom was a farm worker around here as well. I now live here with my wife. We have a six-year old daughter but she lives in the Eastern Cape with my wife’s family.

Unfortunately, my parents passed away. I was living in the shack with my parents and siblings (there were five of us) but in 2010 we were moved out. The municipality said that we have to be moved because there was platinum under the ground we were living on.

Farmers sold their land to this company, so many people in the community became jobless.

The municipality also promised to build us houses. In the meantime they built us shacks. This was in 2010, but I still live in that shack even now and the mine is flourishing right next to us.

I started working as a contractor for NIC Instruments and Engineering in 2013. In my time there, I was situated at the Lonmin Wonderkop Smelter. I was a part of the maintenance team there.

I didn’t particularly like working there, but it paid the bills and my family and I survived.

However, the strike changed things. In March this year, we were told that there is no longer any work for us. We were told that the company is “lacking” and that the strike has made business bad. We were promised that they will get us jobs in other companies, but I am still waiting even now.

The company called us to meet them at a plot where we signed papers that would ensure we got our money.

I haven’t been able to get another job since then.  My wife is also not a permanent employee; she is a casual cleaner at the municipal offices. We have been living off the money we get from renting out two of our shacks and our daughter’s grant money.

This past three months were testing; there have been times when we went to sleep hungry. We couldn’t even ask our neighbours or friends for money because none of them had money either. I would be lying if I said that the strike did not affect us, even if we were not miners. There were and still are consequences.

How can I be jobless when I live right next to a mine, a mine that has inconvenienced my life so much? One day I was sitting in my house and they were blasting at the mine, everything in my house was shaking, even our mirror broke.

Our shacks are mounted out of the ground. We cannot even have a clean house here, because all the dust from the blasting comes to us. We have no water and electricity yet there are pylons and water pipes that pass by our houses, transporting water and electricity to the mine.

If I could leave I would, but there is nowhere else to go. This is the only home I know.

We, the people of Maditlhokwa, have been forgotten.

— As told to Pontsho Pilane


  1. The struggle of the people in mining communities goes beyond what has been portrayed to us! Our people are suffering, while surrounded by multi-trillion rand mines!

  2. One of many such stories I am sure. I miss some more detail in the story….does he have children? How have they been impacted? He refers to the neighbours who also don’t have. How many people live there? Is anyone assisting them? etc.


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