Amcu: Marikana miners calm before shooting

2012-11-28 15:24
Mgcineni Noki, the ‘Man in the Green Blanket’, addresses striking Lonmin workers just hours before 34 miners were shot dead in clashes with police. Picture: Leon Sadiki/City Press

Mgcineni Noki, the ‘Man in the Green Blanket’, addresses striking Lonmin workers just hours before 34 miners were shot dead in clashes with police. Picture: Leon Sadiki/City Press

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Rustenburg - Protesting mineworkers at Lonmin’s platinum mine in Marikana were calm when Amcu president Joseph Mathunjwa returned to the hill where they had gathered on 16 August, the Farlam Commission heard on Wednesday.

Mathunjwa told the hearing an Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) delegation pledged on 15 August to return to the Wonderkop hill after speaking to Lonmin management.

"Before we got to the koppie [hill], we could see movement of police officers holding rifles, and Nyalas. These were different scenes from what we had seen [on 15 August]," said Mathunjwa.

"We had previously seen police officers drinking Coca-Cola and chatting. At the joint operations committee [on 16 August], there were vehicles which could fill a football pitch."

He said he had been significantly delayed at the joint operations committee because North West deputy police commissioner Lieutenant General William Mpembe said there were no vehicles to take the Amcu delegation to the hill.

‘Calm atmosphere’

"I went around and saw three vehicles which had been used on the previous day. I asked Mpembe about it and he said those vehicles did not have keys.

"We decided to head to the koppie in our private vehicles. I went very close to the protesters. I spoke to the protesters and the atmosphere was calm," he said.

Earlier, Mathunjwa told the commission about his interaction with Lonmin executives and senior police officers hours before the shooting on 16 August.

He said mine management had reneged on a commitment, made on 15 August, to address the protesters' grievances once they disarmed and returned to work.

"I was agitated. They were reneging on their commitment. I had already communicated that [commitment] to the workers. I felt we were betrayed as a union," he said.

Moments later, the Lonmin officials brought a cellphone to Mathunjwa, urging him to speak to the person on the line.

"The person on the phone did not introduce herself, she was just rude and her voice was harsh. That person was North West provincial commissioner Lieutenant General Zukiswa Mbombo," said Mathunjwa.

"She kept saying I had made a commitment to return to the koppie by 09:00 [to persuade the strikers to disarm and disperse]. I told her I had been delayed by the Lonmin management who had somersaulted from their commitment. She said she doesn't care," he said.

Altercation with top cop

The Amcu team then headed to the joint operations committee where it met Mbombo, who was taking over the reins of the police operation.

"She said we were late, the sun was hot and the matter had to be finished that day. I explained the reasons for us being late and she said she wasn’t interested," said Mathunjwa.

"She repeatedly said that our reasons were not her business," he said.

The Amcu team was left alone, with no police vehicles to transport them to the hill as stipulated in police safety and security regulations.

Mathunjwa said the team resolved to go to the hill on its own.

Later that day, police opened fire while trying to disarm and disperse protesting miners on the hill, killing 34 of them and wounding 78.

The three-member commission, led by retired judge Ian Farlam, was established by President Jacob Zuma to probe into the violence and the deaths of 44 people in wage-related protests.

In August, Zuma said the commission would complete its work within four months, and would have to submit its final report a month later.
Read more on:    lonmin  |  police  |  amcu  |  mahikeng  |  mining unrest  |  marikana inquiry  |  mining

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