Notshovile Mdizeni

My baby needs to grow up



On a Friday afternoon in February about 20 young boys are practising stick fighting with thin branches tipped with leaves outside Notshovile Mdizeni’s house near Elliotdale in the Eastern Cape.

They range from about four to 14 and the thwacks they administer vary from negligible taps to those boisterous enough to elicit a resounding “Ouch!”.

Notshovile says her son Anele, who was 29 years old when he died at Marikana, relished the sport when he was younger. It is popular in this area, where the carrying of sticks and knobkerries by men is ubiquitous.

At her son’s grave Notshovile, who is a sangoma, starts to cry. She says that of her five children Anele “was the best one to me” and since his death “food doesn’t satisfy me any more”.

Anele’s grave looks across a ravine towards the house he had built recently for himself and his young wife, Unathi. Notshovile says because of the migrant nature of his work Anele only got to stay there for a week before he died.

A week is seven days more than he had with his baby daughter, Asisipho (whose name means “special girl”), who was born in January this year.

A bright smile masks Unathi’s pain and worry – especially when she talks about her daughter’s future.

“My baby needs to grow up but it will be without her father,” she says. “I am struggling to get benefits [from government and Lonmin] now, and I am worried about how I will provide for her in the future.”

Notshovile has also felt the financial pinch since her son’s death. Her identity book says she is 55 but she looks and believes she is much older. She cannot draw a pension and relies for survival on a remittance from her eldest son Vuyisani, who works at Secunda, and social grants for her grandchildren.

“I’m like a baby to my son,” she says. “The things he does for me, I should be doing for him.”

Unathi has been mourning at her mother’s house, close to Notshovile’s, but soon she must return to the home she shared so briefly with Anele. This fills her with trepidation and sadness.

She says her husband, who played football for the local team, Freedom Fighters, and loved gospel and R&B music, was a considerate and loving man.

‘If I was at Marikana and said I was homesick for the Eastern Cape he would surprise me with taxi fare to visit.’





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