Mpofu: Lonmin security deployment unwise

2014-07-25 05:00
Marikana inquiry (Picture: Sapa)

Marikana inquiry (Picture: Sapa)

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Pretoria - Deploying a few Lonmin security guards against thousands of protesting miners was foolish, the Farlam Commission of Inquiry heard on Thursday.

"We are going to argue that the deployment of Mr Fundi and Mabelani at the hostels was unwise," said Dali Mpofu, for the injured and arrested Marikana miners.

He was cross-examining Dewald Louw, a Lonmin security superintendent, at the inquiry in Pretoria.

"Nothing can justify the killing of innocent people. It is not that Mr Fundi and Mabelani were wrong. They did not deploy themselves, they were deployed," Mpofu said.

"I am not criticising the victims but the people who deployed them in a particular manner. One of your colleagues said on the 10th [August 2012] he realised that the deployments were quite dangerous if the crowd had not been as peaceful as it was."

Lonmin security guards Hassan Fundi and Frans Mabelani were killed on 12 August 2012. In that week, eight other people, including two policemen and mineworkers were killed in the unrest related to a strike over wages.

Louw said he and a colleague, Martin Foster, survived an attack earlier that day. He said protesting mineworkers prevented him and paramedics from approaching the area where Fundi and Mabelani lay.

Louw said the attacks on the guards were unwarranted.

'Not a wise decision'

"Looking back, it was obviously not a wise decision. Our main focus was to protect Lonmin assets and all members of personnel," said Louw.

"We had never dealt with a situation like that in all the other strikes leading up to 12 August 2012. Our right to protect our assets and our people didn't justify an unwarranted attack by an illegal strike action which caused security officers to die."

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.

The commission, led by retired judge Ian Farlam, is probing these deaths, and the 10 of the week of 12 August.

When Louw finished his testimony, another Lonmin guard, Mogomotsi Masibi, began testifying about 12 August, particularly the murders of Fundi and Mabelani.

"Manamela [another security guard] and I were called by our seniors, Mabelani and Fundi. Mabelani said the approaching protesters had an intention to burn NUM [National Union of Mineworkers] offices," Masibi said.

"He told us to disperse the strikers with rubber bullets. I disagreed with him. I told him we did not have sufficient equipment to disperse the huge group of protesters. Neither did we have armoured vehicles."

Masibi said other security guards also did not agree with Mabelani, but the senior security guard prevailed. The protesters were approaching the guards in a crouching position.

Another guard, Julius Motlogelwa, walked towards the protesters, waving his hands and asking to speak to them.

'My bullets were finished'

"The strikers did not listen. They started clashing weapons, signalling that we should move out of the way. Motlogelwa turned and went to the car," said Masibi.

"A rubber bullet shot was fired towards the strikers. I joined in and fired seven rubber bullets. The protesters did not retreat. My bullets were finished and my colleagues' ammunition was also finished."

He said the guards ran to their cars, the protesters on their heels. Masibi passed the car Mabelani and Fundi were in. He ran towards a security van leaving the scene.

"I reloaded and fired a further seven rounds from the van. The strikers proceeded to surround Mabelani and Fundi's car. I could not see what was happening. The van I was in was driving off," said Masibi.

Masibi and other guards saw that the cars they had left had been torched. The guards gathered near a mine hospital, with security superintendent Dewald Louw.

"We saw smoke coming from the vehicle where Mr Mabelani and Fundi were in. It was not safe for us to go there. The strikers then started leaving, heading to a nearby taxi rank," said Masibi.

Masibi will be cross-examined on Friday.

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