Moletelo and his friends sat huddled around the small fire they’d built to keep warm in the early winter morning while fetching the day’s water supply. The flames gently crackled and embers warmed their hands and feet, as they fed the fire with branches and twigs to keep it going. Suddenly there was an explosion. Moletelo, his sister, and a neighbourhood friend were hurt in the explosion. After being rushed by ambulance to a nearby hospital for treatment, they were taken to the police station where they made a statement. Maletelo describes how the children that joined them that morning had been picking through the piles of mine rubble lining the roads that meander through Modimolle Village, and had found disused wires amongst the crushed rock. They had proceeded to try and burn off the plastic coating so that that they could use the wire to make toy cars. In actual fact, these wires were live fuses for detonating explosives, carelessly discarded by mining operations.
For a time Moletelo’s grades were affected by the trauma of that morning. Bad dreams and pain from his injuries have troubled him for a number of years, but things have slowly improved. Children are now warned to stay clear of the rubble.
Moletelo Mabunela, 13, Nyakelang Modimolle Village, Limpopo, Eastern Limb
Childhood sweethearts Eustina Matsepane and Joseph Kapudi Mampuru grew up on the same street in the small rural village of Modimolle. By 1997, Eustina, 15 at the time, and Joseph, 18, decided they were going to share their lives together, and the following year they welcomed their first child, Thabang Actavia Matsepane, into the world. Soon after, Anglo Platinum established the Twickenham Platinum Mine in the area, and Joseph, an electrician by trade, sought employment on the mine. The couple saw in the mine an opportunity to make a better life for themselves, and provide for their growing child.
Regrettably it was not to be. Employment opportunities remained scarce in the community even after mining had been in operation for a number of years. People from the surrounding villages felt frustrated that the mine had encroached on their land without giving them much in the way of reciprocal benefits. In September 2013, they marched on Twickenham Platinum Mine. Their objective was to deliver a memorandum to mine management, listing their grievances and calling for more employment oppurtunities.
Eustina remembers the day clearly. “The police arrived and said we must stop what we are doing. It was at that moment teargas was fired into the crowd.” Panic ensued, the crowd began to disperse, everyone running in different directions. Losing his partner in all the confusion, Joseph found himself struggling to breathe. He had inhaled teargas and began to vomit. A friend helped him to his mother’s house where he continued to vomit violently. Those gathered round him soon realised he was in a critical state and arranged for a vehicle to take him to Mecklenburg Hospital. Sadly Joseph would never make it to the hospital – he passed away in the back seat of the car. “I felt so much pain during that time,” Eustina recalls, though her voice is steady. “Even now my son has no one to look after him, his father used to look after him but now I am stranded.”
Eustina Matsepane, 34, Modimolle Village, Limpopo, Eastern Limb