Marikana: Trauma lingers after being set free
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His actions have been slower and he often appeared bewildered, said his family, who spoke to the Mail & Guardian the day after his release from police custody on Monday this week.
Makana is struggling to piece together the fragments of his memory and his eyes narrowed with tears and trauma as he attempted to clarify his own version of events: the days leading up to August 16, coming under fire from police, a repressive arrest and alleged beatings at the hands of the police.
His brother Govan*, who has worked at Lonmin's Marikana operations as a rock drill operator for the past 15 years, looked on ruefully: "I am not sure that I will ever get my younger brother back."
Thabo's story flitted around; he said police placed "guns against my stomach and shot, emptying their magazines, but I did not die". But then he was unsure whether this happened in Phokeng Police Station where he was held, or on the mountain. On Tuesday, his first full day of freedom, he appeared to slip frequently between reality and nightmare.
By Wednesday he was more lucid and spoke with improved clarity about the physical mistreatment at the hands of the police, especially after the miners' first court appearance on August 20 – about being kicked and beaten and having his rosary beads taken from him.
If Makana's emergence from the murkiness that usually accompanies violent fractures such as Marikana was slow, others appeared to have those memories painfully carved into their brains.
Shadrack Mtshamba said: "I will never forget what has happened to us. I stay with it every day. Every day."
Mtshamba remembered the "man [a fellow miner] who saved us" on the mountain, when miners were cowering between rocks as police bullets zinged around them: "He shouted out to us that we would die if we did not surrender, so he stood with his hands in the air as if to surrender, but was shot in the hand. He came down. Then he went up a second time with his hands in the air, but he was shot in the chest. He came down. He went up again a third time to surrender and was shot in the foot and he fell over."
According to Mtshamba, miners were trying to "sneak under the dead bodies" of their comrades to hide from gunfire from a helicopter overhead and he thought he was going to die when three policemen approached him scanning the area. "I do not know how or why they spared me," he said.
He recalled being made to crawl towards the police Nyalas after arrest and of medical help arriving "about an hour and a half after the shooting stopped".
The miners were held in four different police stations: Mogwase, Phokeng, Bethanie and Jericho, before eventually being transferred to Pretoria Central Police Station.
The Independent Police Investigative Directorate is investigating 194 allegations of assault and attempts to cause grievous bodily harm to miners at Phokeng and Mogwase police stations.
Mtshamba, who was moved to Bethanie, recalled long hours of waiting in overloaded vans, not being allowed the use of toilets and being taunted to "pee on yourselves" by the police, and only being fed bread and tea more than 24 hours after arrest.
He also described police beatings from the Thursday of their arrest until their first court appearances the following Monday. For that period, there appears to have been a wanton element to the violence: "They asked us about the sangoma and whether he was still protecting us in prison. They cut off any traditional decorations we had – our laces, our belts, everything went."
On the day of their first court appearance, plain-clothes "policemen 'klapped' [hit] us again and again, wanting to know who our leaders were. They took our cellphones to go through the pictures and numbers we called and wanted to take five of us away, but we refused," said Mtshamba.
Several miners who spoke to the M&G confirmed that police patrolling Marikana would randomly stop miners, search them and scan cellphones for footage or photos of strike action. If any were found, the miners alleged, they would be further intimidated and harassed.
There are many stories of trauma in Marikana – some clearer than others – and many ways of dealing with scars of violence the miners now carry.
Bongani Mbutumo was drunk and giggly on Tuesday evening as he spatch-cocked himself up against a shack wall in Wonderkop informal settlement in Marikana and demonstrated how police kicked and beat him while in jail. Each indication of a blow to his back or legs was accompanied by a sound effect and a childish laugh. Despite Mbutumo's protestations that he was "drinking to celebrate" his recent freedom, the sense that he was really drinking to forget was difficult to shrug off.
There are many taverns in Marikana's townships where one can forget. In Enkaneng informal settlement near the Western mine, music starts pumping from the shebeens as early as 5pm, by which time two out of every three men on the donga-pocked dirt roads are stumbling around drunkenly.
North West is the hard lands of South Africa where barely educated traditional men migrate from the rural areas straight into the country's dark belly to work away at its innards. In return, they live in squalor without running water, electricity and proper sewage facilities. The areas around the shack settlements are covered in drying ordure and faded plastic.
It is also a macho world of operating heavy machinery and building second lives away from wives and children. Women from the area talk of having no job opportunities aside from, perhaps, running spaza shops or sex work and of the high incidence of gender-based violence and child abuse.
Spiritually and psychologically
A recent Bench Marks Foundation study found that in Marikana "poor nutritional levels, a lack of healthy entertainment and recreational facilities, lack of potable water and electricity in many instances mean that these workers are not properly [nourished] physically, spiritually and psychologically on a daily basis. They frequently visit shebeens, use sex workers and do not eat or rest properly."
The dysfunction was apparent at the front of Mbutumo's shack. In a surreal moment he mounted a young woman who was squatting on the ground and covered her completely with his body – another giggling representation of how the police had handled him in jail. In the yard around him, young children between the ages of two and four played games that verged on a real assault, grappling and attacking each other with a relish that suggested an intimacy with violence. At some point, a young boy tried to pushed a kierrie up the clothed anus of another. It was too uncomfortable to be playful.
It is into this world that further traumatised miners were released this week. The question for all of them is whether they can find peace following the violence.
Harold Maloka, spokesperson for the interministerial committee set up by President Jacob Zuma to deal with the Marikana massacre, did not respond to an M&G query about whether the government would provide counselling for the miners and their families.
* Not their real names