Goatherds have started a new industry at Marikana. Picture: Moeletsi Mabe
Goatherds have started a new industry at Marikana. Picture: Moeletsi Mabe

The rising wages of the platinum belt can be observed in the growing herds of livestock at the Nkaneng informal settlement in Marikana. Well-fed goats jostle with pigs at the rubbish dump and muddy patch as you drive into Nkaneng. But other owners have taken their investments seriously enough to spur a new industry of herdsmen to look after their property.

Lesotho national Mojalefa Motsoafi is one such entrepreneur. He whistles softly, throwing a rock at a wayward goat as the herd of mostly boerbokke slowly make their way past the iconic rock formation overlooking Nkaneng. Motsoafi drives the goats to graze near the substation outside Lonmin's main operations at Wonderkop.

"This is my job now, and I am quite happy with it," says the 24-year-old native of Mantsonyane, east of Maseru. He came to Mooinooi and joined his domestic worker mother in 2002. "I was working on a farm until the farmer died in April."

The herd of 44 goats belongs to about seven migrant worker men, mainly from the Eastern Cape, says Motsoafi. "Each of them pays me R300 a month. I also own three of the goats. It's my business too." His monthly pay cheque comes to R2100.

Motsoafi herds the goats while the owners are waiting to transport them to their homes in the countryside. "These guys, the owners, come and go. As the one owner loads his herd in the bakkie to take them home to the Eastern Cape, another one arrives with more goats for me to look after."

While his ideal job would be to work at the mine, Motsoafi is content herding goats, as his chances of landing a job are slim because he is a foreigner while the mines prefer local community members and other domestic migrants. "I won't just sit around doing nothing while waiting for a job, because I would end up committing crime against the community," says Motsoafi.

Thabang Hanyane, 22, came past driving his herd of about 35 goats to the same grazing spot. Hailing from Hlotse in Lesotho, Hanyane has been working as a herdsman in Marikana for five months. The goats are owned by five men who pay him R2000 a month. "The mines don't employ people from Lesotho, so I'm happy doing this."

Within 15 minutes on Thursday morning, three other herdsmen could be seen driving animals to the koppie.

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