As it stands the tension stemming from Rustenburg’s mining industry is most likely to go down in history as a political and class case study. Whether the ruling party handled the situation well also remains to be seen. But at the heart of this situation lies people, desperate to reclaim their basic human dignity and right to earn decent wages.
Miners, who generally wear hardened protective shoes to go underground, have swapped those for takkies to run the streets of Rustenburg demanding better salaries. Nkosinathi Mgibisa is one of the thousands carrying a story of anguish, despair and anger.
The 39-year-old gives Eyewitness News insight into his life, to give an idea of his daily frustrations and the fight to be heard. Ironically for someone who is so desperate to have his demands heard, he is a man of few words – a quiet and statuesque figure.
The impact of this man's earnings on the quality of his life can’t be ignored when he takes you into the villages around the Bokamoso area, into his home and to his family.
"Life is incredibly difficult here," he says as he walks past numerous tin shacks, towards a woman slaving away over a drie-voet pot outside their modest home. Their little safe haven is a one room shack fitted with a kitchen unit, a fridge run by a generator and a bed. It's in this cramped space that Mgibisa, his wife, six children and visiting relatives sleep every night.
Having left his Eastern Cape home six years ago to join Anglo American’s Platinum Mine in Rustenburg, his hopes were for a better future, to be able to provide for his wife, to send money home on a monthly basis and to build a nest egg for rainy days. Unfortunately all he got was a R3500 monthly salary which affords him very little. It's his family back home who often come to his rescue. Mgibisa’s quiet voice grows louder as he ticks off the hurdles that dictate his way of life.
"At five in morning I’m underground, I usually knock off at 3:30 but on some days I barely see the sun."
He says beyond that, the amount of money needed to keep him at work is also ridiculous. Transport costs R250 a month, he’s responsible for his own food and that also takes a lot away from his meagre salary.
Mgibisa’s currently clinging to hope. He happily supports the strike, as a R13000 boost would change his family’s luck. It also means he’d have less to worry about when his eldest child starts formal schooling next year. But what are the chances of them getting that money? As unlikely as it seems to everyone else on the outside looking in, Mgibisa is adamant it will happen. He adds "We work hard under difficult conditions. We just want to be able to have something to show for our efforts.
"I can’t keep coming back to a one room house, in an area with no working toilets, tarred roads and proper electricity in 2012."