Marikana: NUM gave weapons to members

2013-01-29 22:31
Marikana inquiry (Picture: Sapa)

Marikana inquiry (Picture: Sapa)

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Rustenburg - The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) gave weapons to members to defend themselves in Marikana, North West, the Farlam commission of inquiry heard on Tuesday.

NUM member and Lonmin employee Saziso Gegeleza testified on the events of 11 August when striking workers tried to attack the union's office at the Lonmin platinum mine in the North West.

Karl Tip, for NUM, asked him if there were usually weapons kept at the union's office, to which he replied: "No."

Gegeleza said NUM shop stewards had confiscated the weapons from striking miners. He said NUM western platinum branch secretary Daluvuyo Bongo handed out weapons as they heard a group of strikers were heading towards the office to burn it down.

"I was given a knobkerrie and a spear."

He explained how a large group of strikers neared the office. They threw stones and shouted: "Here are these dogs."

"They were so aggressive and they came towards the office running."

Gegeleza said the group had sticks, knobkerries, pangas and spears.

"I had fear. I was afraid, but I wanted to protect my life as well as the offices of the NUM."

He said as the two groups were about to meet gunshots were fired and the strikers retreated. He did not know who fired the gun.

"We chased them and they ran towards the hostel."

He said they chased after the strikers to prevent them from planning another attack.

Gegeleza testified how he saw a man, who he believed was injured, crawling on the ground, but did not approach him.

He said he found out during the commission's inspection in loco at the NUM's office on October 2 that two strikers were killed on 11 August. Tip asked him if he ever saw any bodies in the vicinity.

"No, I never saw them."

Courage

Evidence leader Mbuyiseli Madlanga questioned him on which of the two groups attacked first. He said according to the statements of two Lonmin security staff NUM members attacked strikers first.

Gegeleza replied: "The strikers started. They threw stones at us."

Madlanga said according to the statements NUM members ran towards strikers first and threw stones to protect their office.

"I was there and we were approaching them and they were approaching us and the people were throwing stones and what we did was to duck. They threw stones until there were no more stones left," Gegeleza said.

Madlanga argued they were able to pluck up the courage to stand up to such a large group of protesters because one of them had a firearm, and they knew the strikers did not.

"It will be difficult to answer that question because it will be difficult to know if someone had a gun if they didn't produce it," Gegeleza said.

When asked if he knew who fired the gun, he replied: "I don't know him."

The commission was adjourned until Wednesday morning for Madlanga to consult with Tip before continuing his questioning.

Gegeleza was testifying before the commission which is probing the deaths of 44 people at Lonmin's Marikana mine in August 2012.

On 16 August, 34 striking mineworkers were shot dead and 78 wounded when police opened fire while trying to disperse a group gathered on a hill near the mine.

In the preceding week, 10 people, including two police officers and the two security guards, were hacked to death.

- SAPA
Read more on:    mahikeng  |  marikana inquiry  |  mining unrest
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