16 Days Of Activism: Meet Wendy Pumza Pretorius, from Marikana – South Africa
My family is originally from the Eastern Cape but now lives in the Free State in a home that my father bought from the gold mine he used to work for there. It is a nice brick house in what would be called a suburb. There are good roads and services and my mother keeps a vegetable garden in the yard. My father was retrenched, so in 2009 he came here and found a job at Lonmin.
I was a housewife before but I left my husband, a mechanic, because he was unfaithful to me. He still supports our three children, who I have left with my mother in the Free State. I worked in a restaurant but did not make enough money so I came to live here with my father in 2011 but I have not been able to find a job.
I want to work at the mine. I have put in my CV twice now and the process has been disrupted both times by the strikes, in 2012 and again last year. I did the test at the mine so I hope now that the strike is over I will be called in for an interview. I will take any job they offer me because I need the money.
Right now my father supports me and also helps with my children. I don’t have a partner here and if I didn’t have my father I could not be here. A lot of women come here to look for work but they have to have someone here to look after them, even if they don’t like them. Many are staying with married men, they know it is not right but you can’t survive if you have no one to take care of you.
When I first came here I thought I would be able to manage living here. It was winter, so it was cold and it was raining. I had to wear gumboots to manage doing the housework in the mud. We have electricity but no water in our area. Now I am used to it and I don’t want to leave because I like what I am doing with Sikhala Sonke.
Is not just the living conditions but also other services that are very poor. We have one clinic for all of us that are living here and it closes at around 4 in the afternoon. We need at least another clinic and one that is open 24 hours. If you have an emergency at night you have to hire a car to take you to the hospital and people don’t have the money to do this. There isn’t a police station at Wonderkop, it takes police a long time to respond when you call them.
Wendy Pumza Pretorius (34)
I don’t think the schooling offered here is very good. We need somewhere for children to go and do homework and to study like a library. There are no activities for the children here, there is only soccer and now I see that even girls are playing, but there is nothing else to keep them busy.
Adults too have no recreation. There is no nightlife, it’s too dark here because we have no streetlights so you only leave your home if you are desperate. There are lots of people selling alcohol. Usually drinking is for the weekends but a few do in the week too, mainly after work. I don’t know whether there is any selling of sex, I have never heard of any brothels so I don’t think this is the way it is done, if it is happening.
I like Sikhala Sonke because it is about women supporting each other. So even if you don’t have anything, you can get something from one of the group, we help each other. It’s my first time to be in a group of women and I have had the chance to experience new things. Every woman that wants to join can do so. Sikhala Sonke had a lot of support from academics and NGOs, women from outside even came to march with us in 2012 and they have helped us with many things.
We also go to the Farlam Commission to support the workers. I don’t think the commission is being run right. They are hiding the identity of Mr. X but allowing him to name individuals in his testimony which may put these people in danger. They have charged a lot of workers after the massacre but not one policeman for killing workers.
Widows go to the Commission and stay in hotels with lots of food available to them but they leave empty handed with no money to support their families. I don’t know if it is the mine or the government that is seeing that the children of those killed are able to go to school but they buy them uniforms and pay fees. But you need more than this to keep a child.
One of the women that is with us in Sikhala Sonke is a widow living here in Marikana. They are the real victims because they have no one to take care of them. The mine should offer them their husband’s jobs because now they have nothing.
Some of the men that died must have had girlfriends but they don’t come forward because they know they are doing the wrong thing and that their men were someone’s husband. There is one of the men that got shot whose girlfriend really took care of him after. When his wife came, she ran away. The wife wanted to meet the woman that cared for her husband but she was afraid to face her. The wife was amazing though, when she met the woman she didn’t chase her away, instead she said they must stay together and look after him and so they do and there are no problems. But this is the exception, most wives will not acknowledge the girlfriends of their husbands.
We are also all freedom fighters in Sikhala Sonke. We believe that the ANC failed workers and the people of Marikana. The first person to come here to Marikana after the massacre was Julius Malema, he was very supportive and we really appreciated this. Our previous Chair of Sikhala Sonke is now an EFF parliamentarian. I have been with her to parliament, it was an amazing experience.
I want to see all the women of Sikhala Sonke working. Even if I get a job at the mine, I will still be with Sikhala Sonke. I want it to grow and be successful.
Please click here to read more about our series of articles on the Marikana Women.