'It is sad he had to die this way'
HUNDREDS of mineworkers, many of whom survived the Marikana killings which claimed 44 lives, were bussed to Eastern Cape at the weekend for the funerals of 24 men who died during the violence.
Nineteen of the victims were buried on Saturday and five yesterday. Another five will be buried next weekend, while two victims were buried last weekend. Eastern Cape lost 31 people in the shootings by the police. Many of the victims were not miners but job seekers.
Eastern Cape MEC for social development Pemmy Majodina, who has been at the forefront of organising the funerals, said the burials went well and there were no problems.
"All the funerals proceedings were without problems, though there was finger-pointing from aggrieved mineworkers. But government officials who attended managed to calm them down as there is a commission formed to investigate the shootings," said Majodina.
The burials were attended by government representatives from Parliament and local municipalities. Some ministers were sent to neighbouring countries like Lesotho and Swaziland, from where some of the dead mine-workers came.
One of the victims buried over the weekend was 27-year-old Thembinkosi Gwelani, of Lusikisiki's Kwelani village. Gwelani, who was not employed at the Lonmin mine, was reportedly killed while delivering food to protesting mineworkers.
In a sombre, yet moving ceremony, which was attended by Minister in the Presidency Collins Chabane, villagers and mineworkers from North West described him as a quiet person.
Sebenzile Mntlaka, who travelled from the mine at Marikana to attend the funeral, said Gwelani was looking forward to a day when he would be employed at the mine. "It is sad that he had to die this way," Mntlaka said.
"He died for us as we were protesting for better salaries. He died while delivering food to us."
Another miner, Siphosoxolo Mabena, said Gwelani was always at the mine's gate looking for work.
"You could see that Gwelani came to Rustenburg to work. We knew that he was going to get what he was looking for, but the police killed him."
Gwelani's younger sister, 18-year-old Zikhona, said no one in the family worked and Gwelani was their hope.
"Because we are struggling, at times we have to go to bed on empty stomachs. My brother had no choice but to go to look for a job in the mines. We will sadly miss him and we hope that the government will give us support," said Zikhona.
Other ministers who were in Eastern Cape included Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini, who attended a funeral in Matatiele, and State Security Minister Siyabonga Cwele, who attended another funeral at Lusikisiki.
Chabane reminded mourners that President Jacob Zuma had set up a judicial commission of inquiry to investigate the killings.
"The country needs answers on what really happened and we are helping to find the truth through the commission," said Chabane. "In four months' time, the report will be released and we ask for calm."