Author Rabbie Serumula. File image
Author Rabbie Serumula. File image

#PoeticLicence: Then let us wait for the spirit dance at Marikana when the miners who were shot down unravel

By Rabbie Serumula Time of article published Jun 20, 2021

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Work is illegal, but the reward is pure gold… or fool’s diamonds, or breathing in toxic gas, mercury poisoning, or being arrested for illegal mining, or your body being buried in abandoned mineshafts.

Whatever the reward, with picks and shovels, they separate sand and gravel.

With their bare hands they dig holes, from which they may grovel.

Even with garden tools, the other side of the grass is not always greener.

With poise in their demeanour, they pick their poison; a dust-to-dust death or food on the table.

When I read this week that the death inciting cities of gold beneath Johannesburg are unravelling. That the ground is spewing out bodies of miners, found wrapped in white plastic bags and bearing severe body burns. That the soils of KwaHlathi, outside Ladysmith in KwaZulu-Natal, are apparently generous with their diamond spoils. But government was obviously quick to spoil that party.

My consumption of all these reminded me of three things –

1. The closing in of my lungs, moving in unison with the minor rush of panic my body goes through when I read “illegal miners” and “trapped”.

It was in my second year as a journalist in 2014, when I interviewed an illegal miner from the bottom of a 15m deep man-made ditch. I was young, eager, and courageous.

In hindsight I have learned that young, eager, and courageous can translate to inexperienced, careless, and dangerous. It could translate to a headline that reads; journalist trapped underground with illegal miners.

2. Some stomachs are too stubborn to spew. Deep in the belly of Lily Mine lie the bodies of Yvonne Mnisi, Pretty Nkambule and Solomon Nyirenda, who are yet to be spewed. A thousand years from now when they discover their fossilised skeletons, archaeologists will say: “the mines giveth, and the mines taketh. All the precious metals unearthed will come back to roost. The mines will bury sacrifices in exchange for wealth.”

3. Sometimes these sacrifices will not be buried by the earth. Sometimes 112 of them will be shot and 34 killed by police. Even when work is legal, bodies are not bulletproof.

And if earth is comfortable with spewing bodies, souls should be no different.

Then let us wait for the spirit dance at Marikana when the miners who were shot down unravel.

How they will levitate, fires unto themselves like lanterns. Glorious is the festival of light they will display. Their souls, dancing on a hill, weighed down by crosses.

Even with garden tools, the other side of the grass is not always greener.

With poise in their demeanour, they pick their poison; a dust-to-dust death or food on the table.

“Sometimes you can get a few grams of gold and make a thousand or more rand a day, but some days you leave with nothing,” said the illegal miner I interviewed at the bottom of that 15m deep man-made ditch. In hindsight when he said, “some days you leave with nothing”, he meant a miners life.

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