Marikana families demand answers

2014-08-13 21:29
Marikana inquiry (Picture: Sapa)

Marikana inquiry (Picture: Sapa)

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Pretoria - Most families of 44 people who died during the August 2012 Marikana unrest demand answers on the deaths of their loved ones, the Farlam Commission of Inquiry heard on Wednesday.

"We want to know, what steps our government took in this strike? We are here everyday for this problem of the killing of our relatives by the police. We want the truth," Lanford Gqotjelwa, whose cousin Thembelakhe Mati was killed on 13 August, told the inquiry in Pretoria.

"What caused the president not to come and address the families of the deceased? The former leader of the National Union of Mineworkers' evidence cannot be trusted."

He was referring to Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, who testified at the commission on Monday and Tuesday about his role in the Marikana events. He was repeatedly heckled as he gave evidence.

Gqotjelwa said he worked in a mine for over two decades but there had never been an instance where miners were killed for demanding a wage hike.

"Now the government cannot intervene in mine strikes because it is involved. In this country, there is a darkness that is leading the light," he said.

The commission, chaired by retired judge Ian Farlam, is investigating the deaths of 44 people during strike-related violence at Lomin's platinum mining operations at Marikana, near Rustenburg in the North West, in August 2012.

Thirty-four people, mostly striking mineworkers, were shot dead in a clash with police, over 70 were wounded, and over 250 arrested on 16 August 2012. Police were apparently trying to disarm and disperse them.

In the preceding week, 10 people, including two policemen and the two Lonmin security guards, were killed. On Wednesday, the commission heard presentations by lawyers and families of the 44 deceased.

Weeping echoes in the chambers

Betty Gadlela, from Swaziland, said her husband Stelega was "a man of peace".

He had worked for Lonmin for 23 years and left behind 11 children.

"I blame Lonmin very much. They employed my husband. When he complained about the wages, they called police. That hurts me. The police represent the government of this country," she said.

"The police killed the miners after being told that the protesters were faceless people. How do police kill in a country where they are well trained? It means this government scorns mineworkers."

She said her husband's death had drastically changed her life.

"He came to this country to work. He was killed for his rights. I have heard evidence in this commission from senior police officers saying those who shot did a very good job," said Gadlela.

Another widow, Nandipa Gunuza, said her husband Bonginkosi Yona died when their son was only seven days old.

"My baby Mihle did not get the chance to meet his father. It is pain which no one can take away. I blame Lonmin for taking its workers for granted," she said in a statement to the inquiry.

"I also blame the police. I am at this inquiry to seek justice. The police should have known better. They can't solve a situation by killing people. Where were the teargas and rubber bullets?"

Outbursts of weeping echoed in the Tshwane council chambers, where the commission holds the public hearings as the presentations went on.

Some women collapsed and the inquiry was briefly adjourned. Three women were rushed to a nearby hospital.

Other presentations would be heard when the public hearings resumed on Thursday.

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