Biographies of the former miners in the filmThey Go to Die:
Mr. Mkoko is a tall, gangly man with a comical sense of intrigue. He was diagnosed with HIV in 2004 and multi-drug resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) in 2008. Shortly after his MDR-TB diagnosis, he was released from the mines due to his illness and sent home. He lives in rural Swaziland and is too sick to obtain a job, nor are there any available for those in good health. His wife, a proud Swati woman, works in Mbabane, which is about a day’s trip away via public transportation. She returns every weekend in order to take care of her husband. And she does this for one simple reason: to afford medication for a husband she adores. Mr. Mkoko and his wife support his sister and his two sons, ages 7 and 14. Mr. Mkoko knows the impact he has on his family and community and has actively explored every way in which he can maintain his health: he watches his nutrition, attends support groups, and adamantly maintains treatment when he can obtain his pills. However, Mr. Mkoko has already lived longer than almost anyone with this co-infection, and his health is fading quickly regardless of his efforts.
Mr. Sagati lives in an informal settlement outside of Carletonville, South Africa. He has two children and five grandchildren, all of whom live in the informal settlement as well. His wife, wed in the Eastern Cape, moved across the country in order to support her husband at the mine. Infected with HIV and diagnosed with MDR-TB in 2008, he spent six months in the isolation ward of the mining hospital for treatment. When the mine insisted that he return to work, he explained that he was still too sick to return to physical labor. In return, he was discharged from the hospital and sent home. He still currently has MDR-TB but is not receiving treatment because his family cannot generate an income. Despite his situation, Mr. Sagati enjoyed his time working at the mine, a place he has known since 1976.
Mr. Ndlagamandla a person who simply does not allow his tribulations to quell the laughter and joy he experiences from being with his family. A person of constant giggling, his family of eleven lives in an extremely remote area of Swaziland: so remote, many of his family have never even seen a car in their lifetime. He was released from the mine due to “phthisis,” an antiquated term for the combination of silicosis in the lung and tuberculosis. He was told that his form of TB is incurable and sent home, deemed “unfit to work.” The only access to health he has in his region of Swaziland diagnoses him with TB and begins a crude regimen of chemotherapy. The health providers at his home, however, have overlooked is that his strain of TB is resistant to the very drugs he is taking. While his health continues to fail despite the fact that he maintains his pill treatment, he questions why he no longer has the strength to take the evening walks with his family.
Mr. Mahaba is a Basotho man who lives in an informal settlement outside of Carletonville, South Africa. He was released from the mines due to TB and HIV in 2008 with no means for treatment after release. With a view of the mineshaft from the steps of his dwelling, his wife stormed the mine and demanded that the mine give her husband proper medication. She was given a week’s worth of medication and a porridge that she was told to prepare for him every day. His son, a 29 year old man living in the same settlement, was promised that he could have his father’s job now that his father has been released. Knowing the health effects and dangers of the mine all too well, Mr. Mahaba is still eager for his son to begin work so that he will be able to support the family.