I just want to see my wife and kids – freed miner

2012-09-04 06:46

Melfasen Leseya, one of the Marikana miners released on warning after being charged with common purpose murder, never thought he would be set free.

When the 40-year old former rock drill operator at Lonmin’s embattled mine walked out of the Ga-Rankuwa Magistrates Court last night he only wanted to see his wife and two children.

He did not join his group of more than 40 miners in chanting struggle songs as they walked out free men.

Holding back tears, Leseya, said he thought he would rot in jail and was saddened that’s he never got a chance to bury his fallen colleagues who were mowed down by police in what has become know the Marikana massacre.

“I never thought this case would end or I would go home. I still don’t believe it. After police told us we would be charged with killing our own, I though my life and that of my family was over,” said Leseya, clutching his trousers without a belt.

“The first thing I’m going to do is go to the Bethania police station and get my belt and cellphone which was confiscated when I got arrested,” said Leseya.

Although he wishes he could go back to the Wonderkop hill where 34 miners were shot dead two weeks ago, he said he would stay away from any trouble until the case of public violence has been concluded.

“I heard we no longer have jobs at the mine because we were arrested, I will have to find another job after more than 10 years as a rock drill operator,” said Leseya who confirmed that he and his fellow accused were mistreated and tortured at the Bethania police station.

Magistrate Esau Bodigelo set strict bail conditions for the miners including that they may not commit a crime, be part of any illegal gathering or carry illegal weapons.

The National Prosecuting Authority on Sunday bowed to political and public pressure to release the men and provisionally withdrew the murder charges which mean that each of the 270 accused would have faced 34 counts of murder each.

“All I wanted to do was get a better salary, something all of us in that mine deserve, but we ended up in jail. I felt my rights were abused, I was abused for fighting for what I thought was right.

“I’m sad that I never got to bury any of the friends I worked with at the mine,” said Leseya after most funerals took place the past two weekends.

The men burst into song as they walked out of the court.

They refused to be taken home in police vans that had been organised by police and instead used minibus taxis provided by the Friends of the Youth League, a group that seeks to give a platform to expelled former ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema.

As the men waited in the taxis, accosted by a group of reporters from local and international media, another group of 20 miners arrived in two trucks to have their bail heard.

State attorney Nigel Carpenter said only 162 of the 270 would be freed immediately as their residential addresses had been verified, while the rest would only get to go home when they addresses were confirmed.

The accused were instructed to return to court on February 12 next year for a follow up hearing.

The Inter-Ministerial Committee on Marikana, established by President Jacob Zuma, said government would provide support to the affected families.

“Government took a decision to support all families of the 44 deceased without discrimination, as you may know that some of the deceased were not employees of Lonmin.

“Government will further ensure that those families who qualify for any benefits from government receive them as soon as possible, this to ensure that those households who lost their breadwinners receive care from government” said the committee.

The release of the men was widely welcomed yesterday, with some calling for the judicial commission of inquiry to get to the truth of what happened on 16 August when police opened fire on miners.

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