Miners were threatening - guard

2014-07-24 18:02
Thousands of Lonmin miners in Marikana turned violent to ensure that operations at the company’s mine shafts had stopped during their six ensure week-long strike demanding better wages. Picture: Sebabatso Mosamo/City Press

Thousands of Lonmin miners in Marikana turned violent to ensure that operations at the company’s mine shafts had stopped during their six ensure week-long strike demanding better wages. Picture: Sebabatso Mosamo/City Press

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Pretoria - The attitude of striking mineworkers changed significantly in the days leading up to clashes between protesters and police in Marikana in North West on 16 August 2012, the Farlam Commission of Inquiry heard on Thursday.

"On Friday [10 August 2012], the crowd only spoke to indicate to other protesters to keep quiet. On Sunday [12 August 2013], the crowd was different, especially with regards to the amount of weapons carried," Lonmin security superintendent Dewald Louw told the inquiry in Pretoria.

"The way they acted, chanted, and the way they were holding their spears on Sunday was different. One took his spear and acted as if he was slitting his throat. They were taunting us, the facial expressions were not friendly."

At one point, Louw said his counterpart Martin Foster asked if he should shoot.

"They [protesters] were looking for some sort of reaction from us. We called for back-up and that is when we were attacked," said Louw.

He said the crowd went into a crouching position as they attacked.

"They were hostile because of the manner they moved. I got the impression that this was not like one of any crowds we had dealt with ever since I started working at Lonmin in 2008," said Louw.

"I was not sure where the other security vehicles where. Some were patrolling in the outskirts of the mining area. I thought that if the other [security] vehicles rushed we could get help within seven to 10 minutes."

Louw said his partner drove away and stopped after some distance to "take off pieces of glass" from their vehicle.

He said he gave a clear warning to the Lonmin security control room, over the two-way radio, that the "protesters should not be engaged because they were hostile".

Only to control room

Louw said he gave the warning only to the security control room, and was not sure if two Lonmin security guards killed by protesters that day - Hassan Fundi and Frans Mabelani - got his warning.

The two were not at the control room.

"They might have heard me if they had radios. I am not aware of the situation with regards to the equipment they had. Even if they had hand radio, some of the messages can get lost in translation since we don't have sufficient reception in some areas."

Commission chair retired judge Ian Farlam asked whether Fundi and Mabelani had cellphones.

Louw said they had.

Commissioner Pingla Hemraj asked Louw to explain whether he conveyed a message to fellow security guards that "a lot more security personnel would be required to approach the area".

Louw said he did not convey the message.

"Remember I had just been attacked and had almost lost my life. I was also injured but that did not matter, the only thing that mattered was for the crowd not to be engaged," said Louw.

"I requested the control room to call all managers and inform them of what had happened. My main concern was that people may die unnecessarily. Engaging the crowd is not our main priority," he said.

The commission is investigating the deaths of 44 people in strike-related violence at Lonmin's platinum mining operations at Marikana in August 2012.

Thirty-four people, mostly striking mineworkers, were shot dead in a clash with police, over 70 were wounded, and another 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 security guards, were killed.

Read more on:    lonmin  |  pretoria  |  marikana inquiry
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