More media as 'Mr X' about to testify

2014-06-19 11:45
The striking miners (Lucky Nxumalo, Beeld)

The striking miners (Lucky Nxumalo, Beeld)

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Pretoria - Media presence at the Farlam Commission of Inquiry was heightened on Thursday ahead of the testimony of "Mr X".

Several broadcast vans and cameras were outside the auditorium in Pretoria where the public hearings were being held.

Numerous journalists were inside the auditorium and almost all seats were occupied.

Security guards and police officers were at the venue.

The witness, identified only as Mr X to protect his identity, was apparently one of a group of protesting miners who underwent a ritual at Marikana, near Rustenburg, North West, that included burning live sheep on the night of 11 August 2012.

The ritual was apparently preparation for a confrontation with police, according to his documents presented to the inquiry by the police.

Safety in danger if identity revealed

In March, the police were granted a request for the witness to testify in camera from a remote undisclosed location via video link.

At the time, Sesi Baloyi, for the police, said the witness's safety would be in danger if his identity was revealed or published.

Baloyi said the inquiry, led by retired judge Ian Farlam, had the authority to make such special arrangement for a particular witness.

In April, Farlam prohibited publication of Mr X's details.

"I make the following rulings: that the evidence of Mr X be presented in camera and by video link. That at all times during the testimony of Mr X, one of the evidence leaders shall be present in the room which he testifies from.

"Only the commissioners [of the inquiry], the parties, the legal representatives, evidence leaders, and accredited media representatives shall be present in the auditorium during the testimony of Mr X," Farlam said.

Taking chances

Dali Mpofu SC, for miners arrested and wounded at Marikana, has repeatedly lambasted Mr X, calling him "a multiple murderer and a self-confessed habitual criminal, having at least three murders under his belt".

"As soon as I get the identity and photographs of Mr X I have a duty to tell them [Mpofu's clients] all the things, including which shaft he works in. He will still face the exact same risk whether they are here or not."

Mpofu said other witnesses, including North West police air wing commander Salmon Vermaak, "took chances" by testifying in the public hearings.

The inquiry is investigating the deaths of 44 people during strike-related violence at Lonmin's platinum mining operations at Marikana.

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 two security guards, were killed.
- SAPA
Read more on:    lonmin  |  ian farlam  |  dali mpofu  |  mahikeng  |  marikana inquiry
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