Mr X in danger

2014-07-06 15:00

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As he testifies at the Marikana Commission of Inquiry, the safety of Mr X, the police’s star witness, is in grave doubt.

The police say the man has ?been testifying before Judge Ian Farlam from a remote location for his own safety.

But some people attending the hearings now claim they know exactly where he is.

Mr X has been testifying in camera via video link for the past two weeks. His face has been beamed across the commission’s chambers for all to see – the miners and the widows of the miners who died at Marikana, and others who may want him dead.

Earlier this year, the police applied for their star witness to testify in camera, arguing that his life would be in danger. They said evidence showed that potential witnesses had been murdered, giving rise to a strong suspicion that this was to prevent them from giving evidence before the commission or in any possible criminal proceedings.

Police have tried to keep his location secret but on Monday the plan may have begun to unravel.

Before Mr X began his testimony, the commission experienced technical difficulties.

As the glitches were resolved, people in the auditorium pointed out to City Press that a technician, usually seen on the screen showing Mr X testifying, was inside the commission chambers.

A few minutes later, the technician was again on the screen. The widows attending hearings noticed he had removed the jacket he was wearing and was dressed in a T-shirt.

When the commission resumed, the same technician was again inside the commission chambers. City Press understands many people have seen the technician around the grounds of the Tshwane municipal offices in Centurion, where the commission is conducting the hearings.

When asked about the security breach, SA Police Service (SAPS) spokesperson Lieutenant General Solomon Makgale said it was not true that Mr X was anywhere in the vicinity. He declined to comment on whether the police were aware that one of the technicians was seen inside the chambers.

During the lunch break on Monday, some of the miners joked that they should follow the technician to find out where Mr X was being held.

And as the commission adjourned on Thursday because Mr X claimed he was suffering from a headache, one of the miners attending the hearing was heard saying he would take painkillers to him as he was just around the corner.

Last week, City Press found Mr X’s mother in her Eastern Cape village. She had already resigned herself to the possibility that she would never see her son again.

“I know he’s going to die. There is no way he can come back here and think he will live a normal life again,” she said.

The elderly woman expressed deep concern that her son was testifying, especially for the police, and against the miners with whom he was on strike.

“What the police did was wrong to kill those men, now my son is testifying for them. It makes me sick to hear people say Mr X is my son,” she said.

Judge Ian Farlam ruled in April that if Mr X had to travel to where the commission was sitting from where he lives under witness protection, then return once he had finished testifying for the day, there would be a real risk his whereabouts may be discovered and that he would be killed.

Commission spokesperson Advocate Phuti Setati said there was nothing he could say about the safety of Mr X.

“We haven’t heard of anything like that. Anything to do with Mr X has to be taken to the SAPS as he is represented by them. For the commission he is like any other witness. He is the responsibility of the police."

5 holes in Mr X's testimony

Evidence leader Advocate Geoff Budlender punched at least five holes in the testimony of the police’s key witness, Mr X, at the Marikana Commission of Inquiry this week.

1. Budlender showed a photograph of a miner, taken on August 13, which Mr X claims is himself. “I have to say to you that I’m not an expert, none of us is an expert, on faces, but that face looks very different from your face. That’s a round face. Yours is a long face. Have you got a gap? Do you see that person has no gap in his front teeth?” Budlender asked.

Mr X insisted he was the man in the picture.

2. In 2013, at the Phokeng police station, Mr X stated that at the railway line, North West deputy police commissioner, William Mpembe, started counting for the miners to drop their weapons and before he could finish, the police started shooting. Mr X’s statement this year was in line with the police’s version of events. Budlender asked why he had changed his statement after consulting with SAPS lawyers.

3. On August 10 2012, Mr X claimed he was one of five miners nominated to represent the strikers at the Lonmin offices. He told the commission the five miners were Baai, Bhele, Booi and two others. He did not include himself.

4. Mr X also identified himself in a picture taken on

August?15, where miners were huddled together. He said he was wearing gumboots but when Budlender showed him that the man he claimed to be was in fact wearing shoes, Mr X quickly agreed he was wearing shoes.

5. Mr X claimed that Amcu president Joseph Mathunjwa checked by cellphone whether he could come to the koppie on the evening of August 14, then arrived to tell miners they should not listen to NUM president Senzeni Zokwana and instead kill him. Phone records showed that Mathunjwa’s cellphone did not make or receive any calls in North West that day. Mr X stood by his evidence.

Budlender said at the end of the hearings, he would submit three reasons showing Mr X was not present on August 13.

“The first reason is that you are not in the photograph which you pointed out as yourself,” he said. “The second is that you did not know what actually happened on August 13 until after you’d been taken into police protection, and thirdly, that even now you don’t know what actually happened on the 13th.” – Athandiwe Saba

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