No prior decision to take up arms, worker tells commission

2013-02-21 14:00

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A survivor of the August 16 2012 shootings has told the Marikana Commission of Inquiry that there was never a decision by workers to carry weapons during a strike by rock-drill operators employed by platinum miner Lonmin.

At least 34 mine workers died on that fateful day.

Siphethe Phatsha, who was hospitalised following injuries sustained during that day, said during cross-examination by Lonmin lawyer Terry Motau that there was never a decision by anyone that led to workers carrying dangerous weapons.

Motau argued there must have been someone taking decisions on behalf of the workers, one of which was that they would carry dangerous weapons after they were shot at during a march on August 11.

Phatsha said no one was taking decisions on behalf of the workers during the strike, and he had decided to arm himself with a butcher knife and an incula, a sharpened steel rod, when he saw other workers also carrying weapons.

He refused to answer some questions and constantly asked the interpreter to repeat most of the questions.

Phatsha, a rock-drill operator at Lonmin, also voiced his unhappiness about being the subject of a barrage of questions, asking why he wasn’t allowed to put questions to the lawyer.

His actions prompted Motau to remark that the commission was a very important platform that sought to find answers as to what happened and he should not waste time.

Commission chairperson, retired Judge Ian Farlam, intervened, asking Phatsha why he decided on August 15 to carry dangerous weapons – even when it was clear that a strong police contingent had gathered at the koppie where the striking workers were gathered.

This was after Phatsha had testified that he had only carried a stick between August 11 and the morning of August 15, when he armed himself with a butcher knife.

He said he had arrived at the koppie at about 5am on August 15 carrying a butcher knife. He later left and returned carrying the knife and an incula.

Farlam asked why he had carried the weapons when it was evident police were present, and why the striking workers did not ask police for protection and if they expected any fight.

Phatsha said there was no time for the striking workers to ask for protection from police after they were shot at, allegedly by members of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) on August 11.

“These are the things I carry to protect myself when I’m anticipating a fight,” Phatsha said.

Farlam asked who Phatsha expected to fight with and why anyone would attack them with such strong police presence, to which he responded he was not anticipating a fight with anyone.

Phatsha said he did not know when the police were going to leave the koppie.

The hearing continues.

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