Grist for mining mill
Thabiso Masebetsane, 54, a widower from Matatiele, in Eastern Cape, did not want his three sons to follow in his footsteps and work on the mines, as he had for 25 years.
He wanted them to enjoy a decent education so that they could live a better life. That dream ended when Masebetsane died fighting for a better salary to improve the lives of the members of his family.
Masebetsane was one of the 34 Marikana miners killed by the police on August 16 .
Mineworkers had earlier downed tools, demanding that their employer, Lonmin, pay them better wages. Masebetsane was supporting five family members in addition to his three sons.
He was earning R7200 a month, before deductions, as a rock-drill operator, plus a housing allowance of R1850.
Masebetsane's 22-year-old son, Katiso, might have to become the main breadwinner of the family.
"My father used to send home R500 every month and I had plans for assisting him and working so that we could double what he was sending home," he said.
"He made plans that, if his money increased after this strike, he [ would] increase the little money that he was sending home, but he died having that dream."
Katiso did not complete his schooling.
"There was just no money in my family. The money there was not enough to feed us and I decided to look for a job. But a mine job was not for me because I knew that even my children would suffer if I worked on a mine," he said.
Katiso was in Marikana on the day his father died.
"The striking miners were sitting on the hill, waiting to be addressed, and we mingled with them because we were buying them food in the shops," he said.
As he left for a nearby spaza shop, he heard gunshots.
"When I turned back, I saw people being shot at. The first thing I thought about was my father. I wanted to run in there but I could not. People were running in different directions, with some falling down as police and soldiers chased after them."
He tried to locate his father after the carnage.
"I thought he was hiding as many workers ran away."
Days passed without any sign of Masebetsane.
"I went to hospitals and the police holding cells. He was found in a government mortuary after five days.
"That was the darkest day in my life," said Katiso.
Now he has dusted off his father's overalls, hard hat and boots and is waiting for the day when he will be called on by the mine to replace his dead father.
"The family will wait until the mine approves my employment before they can have something to eat," he said.