Union boss quizzed about Marikana violence

2012-11-29 13:40
Joseph Mathunjwa (Felix Dlangamandla, Beeld)

Joseph Mathunjwa (Felix Dlangamandla, Beeld)

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Rustenburg - Acts of violence, murder, and destruction of property were in contrast with the modus operandi of Amcu, union president Joseph Mathunjwa said on Thursday.

He made the remarks at the Farlam Commission, at the beginning of his cross-examination by advocate Ishmael Semenya SC, representing the police.

Semenya sought answers from Mathunjwa regarding his personal stance, and that of the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu), on a number of issues, including violence.

"As a leader, do you condemn unlawful damage of property? So when you see torched vehicles belonging to Lonmin mine, do you condemn such acts?" Semenya asked.

"I condemn unlawful damage to property, not only for Lonmin property, but anywhere where it happens. That is also the position of Amcu," Mathunjwa replied.

"As a leader, do you condemn protests? I take it that as a party you distance yourself from any armed protests," Semenya asked.

Video footage

Mathunjwa agreed.

Semenya screened a video, taken by the police on August 13.

The footage shows a group of armed protesters, heavily armed with weapons including pangas, spears and knobkerries.

There is a confrontation, with police, who demand that the strikers surrender their weapons. The group refuses, and goes on its way.

The video ends while the group is making its way to a hill near Lonmin's platinum mine in Marikana. Police officers are seen pointing firearms at them.

There was another confrontation between police and the striking workers moments later. Two officers were hacked to death.

Condemnation

Mathunjwa was asked whether he had condemned these armed protests.

"It has to be known that this was not a strike called by Amcu. It was the workers’ strike," he said.

"I have never seen any document where you, as a leader, condemned that armed protest. Where did that happen?" Semenya asked.

"There are instances where I addressed the workers at the mountain," Mathunjwa replied.

"I am not sure you are not telling us you told the workers that you condemn the armed protests. You, as Mathunjwa, did you condemn this armed protest? Where did you do it?" Semenya asked.

"You may say that, but the message was clear: we are against any bloodshed," said Mathunjwa.

"On SAfm, [during an interview] we mentioned that we are against any form of violence... [and in] some letter I wrote to management and with the media briefing," he said.

Three-member commission

However, Semenya put it to him: "You have not been recorded anywhere saying you condemn armed protests in the media coverage you got. I want to know if you ever took a moment to tell your Amcu members that you condemn armed protests."

Mathunjwa responded: "We did that, like I have said before."

"Mr Mathunjwa, did you see the protesters in that video walking away in flagrant disregard of a lawful instruction by police to lay down their weapons? Are you prepared to condemn such actions to all Amcu members listening?" asked Semenya.

"I saw that there was a negotiation there between the police and the protesters. I don't have a problem [with condemning such protests]. I, Joseph Mathunjwa, condemn any form of armed protests," he said.
The cross-examination continues.

The three-member commission, which is led by retired judge Ian Farlam, is holding public hearings at the Rustenburg Civic Centre as part of a probe into the killing of 44 people during wage-related, violent strikes at Marikana, in North West.

- SAPA

Read more on:    lonmin  |  police  |  amcu  |  mahikeng  |  mining unrest  |  marikana inquiry  |  mining
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