Striking miners were shot in the back while fleeing

2012-08-22 00:00

CAPE TOWN — The police shot striking mineworkers in the back while they were running away rather than attacking.

This was said by opposition speakers in a parliamentary debate on the Marikana mine tragedy yesterday.

At least four workers injured at the Rustenburg mine were shot in the back, said Democratic Alliance MP Dr Wilmot James and several other parliamentarians who had visited victims in the mine hospital.

“How can you shoot someone in the back? That is the work of cowards,” said James.

African Christian Democratic Party leader Kenneth Meshoe condemned the police’s action, describing it as “wrong and inappropriate”.

“Three of the workers we visited in hospital had been shot in the back. I wonder how many of those who died had also been shot in the back.”

The atmosphere in the National Assembly was subdued.

Several speakers asked who had instructed the police to use live ammunition.

They also condemned the militarisation of police ranks.

Democratic Alliance MP Dianne Kohler-Barnard called Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa an “empty suit”, saying he must be held responsible because he had sat back like a lame duck while former police chief Bheki Cele introduced military ranks for the police.

“This was accompanied by a culture of brute force, strong-man tactics and deadly force.”

She said the death of Andries Tatane, who died during a service delivery protest in Ficksburg last year, should have been an indication of what could happen in the future.

Cope leader Mosiuoa Lekota identified the political alliance between the governing party and Cosatu trade unions, like the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) and Popcru, as a worrying factor.

Some NUM members had broken away to join another trade union, Amcu. “What will convince the public that the order to shoot Amcu members was not connected to the rejection of NUM, a subsidiary of the ruling party?”

He accused mining minister Susan Shabangu of wanting to meet only with the NUM. “We saw the minister of NUM meeting with NUM. Where is the minister of Amcu?”

United Democratic Front leader Bantu Holomisa also questioned the ANC’s collusion with certain trade unions. He said the NUM, Lonmin and the police held a meeting just a few hours before the shooting, while Amcu was excluded.

Independent Party MP Joe McGluwa said the massacre at Marikana is not only a national disaster, but also a national embarrassment.

“It is a tragic moment in our history.”

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