Today was a huge day. We needed to make up for lost time and had planned it so that we could visit 6 people who were relatively close to each other. This morning I was worried that I am not going to hit my target of photographing 56 out of the 69 miners but after today it seems that I am back on track.
3 of the people that I photographed today were widows of sick miners. It is important to note the impact that silicosis has had on their lives, robbing their family of an income and creating an extra stress in terms of caring for their sick husbands and also, in many cases, having to be the sole provider for the family.
Matsekelo Masupha is the widow of Mokonyana Robert Masupha who passed away in 2008 after working for 29 years in the gold mines. He was diagnosed with silicosis in 2003 and was compensated R89,000. she now earns a living by farming and selling traditional medicine.
“Considering the hardship I face now. I would say that I am disappointed in the company that my husband worked for. He went there as a young man, he spent his entire life there but he came back with nothing to show for his work.”
Monokoa Lepota lives in Roma, Lesotho. He was working in the gold mines when he injured his eye in an accident and was retrenched with compensation of R70,000. After he returned home he discovered that he has silicosis from his 36 years working underground. He cannot go back to work in the mines and so has to support himself by farming.
Motlalepula Mokoena, 71 years old from Maseru in Lesotho. He worked on the gold mines for 38 years as a loco driver and a team leader at Freestate Saaiplaas and Free State Geduld mines. He was retrenched in 2002 and paid R36,000 in compensation for his silicosis.
He now receives an old age pension and lives alone as his wife has died and his 4 children have left home.
Makeneude Agnus Litabe is the widow of Michael Litabe who passed away in 2014 at 60 years old. She is 49 and lives in Motemekoane, Maseru in Lesotho. Her late husband worked on the mines for 29 years and received R38,000 when he was diagnosed with silicosis.
She now has to survive by growing vegetables and farming cattle on her own. Her eldest daughter works as a domestic worker in Pretoria and sends home R1000 every 3 or 4 months.
“before my husband died he lost a lot of weight and his skin became black. He was in a lot of pain. I feel that the mine must be liable.”
Manthatuda Josephina Lebina is the widow of Liphang Lebina, lives in Ha Mpo, Maseru in Lesotho. She is 72 years old and has to survive by selling vegetables. Her husband was never compensated when he became sick with silicosis. He worked in the gold mines for 10 years as a store attendant at Free State Saaiplaas and a boiler maker and loco driver at President Brand.
Mona Melao lives in Maseru, Lesotho and is 48 years old. He worked as a loader driver for Free State Guduld mine between 1985 and 1996. While he was on the mine he was a keen soccer player and a good boxer. In 1993 he sustained a leg injury and whilst in hospital it was discovered that he had TB and silicosis. He now has a wife and 3 children to support and works for his brother driving taxis.