A monument to violence

2012-10-06 18:10

It’s not the grandest of monuments. It’s a little cross, somewhat skewed, knee-length in height.

It’s made from two tree branches, about 60cm each, tied together with a piece of plastic.

The vertical stick that is stuck into the black soil is balanced by a few stones put carefully together to stop it from falling.

It stands in an open field somewhere between the infamous Marikana koppie and Karee mine’s K-4 shaft, in the rich platinum fields of North West province.

This cross marks the spot where warrant officer Tsietsi Monene (47) died during a confrontation between striking mineworkers and police on August 13.

Monene was allegedly hacked and stabbed with sharp objects, presumably traditional weapons.

He was the seventh victim of the violence that broke out in the Marikana area following an illegal strike by miners employed by Lonmin on August 9.

This spot was one of the scenes visited by retired Judge Ian Farlam on Monday and Tuesday, as part of proceedings of the Marikana Commission of Inquiry.

The commission is investigating events that led to the deaths of 46 people who died during a bloody strike by mineworkers employed by Lonmin.

However, the public still has to wait much longer to finally hear exactly what happened during the strike after the commission was postponed this week.

Commission spokesperson Advocate Kevin Malunga said one of the key reasons for the postponement was that critical information such as post mortem and pathology reports were not available.

Malunga said the postponement augurs well for the commission as “there are still thousands of documents that still need to be photocopied and exchanged.”

He said the postponement also means that the commission will be better prepared to go “full speed ahead” on resumption on October 22.

The commission, which has a staff of 27 including security personnel, interpreters, evidence leaders and other administrative personnel, has been allocated R25 million from the department of justice’s baseline budget.

Malunga said costs could escalate and there could be a need to request more funds from national treasury.

He said some of these costs could include the travel and accommodation of families of the victims, most of them who are based in the Eastern Cape and Lesotho.

Advocate Dumisa Ntsebeza, who represents 20 of the victims of the August 16 shooting, earlier this week made an application to the commission to postpone proceedings so that provision could be made for families to be brought to Rustenburg for the hearings.

The application was rejected by Farlam.

However, Malunga said the commission was already working on contacting the families when the application was made.

Back on the open field in Marikana on Tuesday afternoon, an uneasy hush swept through the group of lawyers and journalists accompanying Farlam on an in-loco inspection of the scene where Monene’s body, and that of three other civilians, were found.

“Commissioner,” Lieutenant Colonel Neels Botha of the North West province’s Crime Scene Investigations unit said as he positioned himself next to Farlam.

“There are five crime scenes in this area. This cross is where the body of Warrant Officer Monene was found.”

Botha also pointed out the scene where warrant officer Sello Lepaaku (45) lay injured before he was rushed to hospital where he later died from his injuries.

The scene where Lepaaku lay injured is marked by a short tree stump.

This is the scene where, a group of armed miners allegedly attacked police after they refused to disarm and instead, requested police to escort them to the infamous koppie where they held vigil for days.

The miners, a group of about 80 to 100, according to Botha, had been stopped by police on an isolated dirt road opposite a railway line.

They were marching eastwards towards Marikana, on their way from Karee mine’s K-4 shaft where a day earlier, two cars had been set alight and a man severely assaulted, allegedly by the miners.

As police escorted them along the dirt road which runs parallel to a railway line, the miners suddenly veered left into the bushes, where they allegedly ambushed Monene and Lepaaku with sharp weapons.

Police retaliated by opening fire, killing three of the miners.

Botha says he reconstructed the scene for the purposes of the commission’s visit, laying out cones to indicate where three other bodies, R-5 cartridges, spears, stun grenades and rubber bullet cartridges, a blanket and dagga were discovered.

It was during this confrontation between the police and miners, that Lepaaku and Monene’s R-5 and service pistol went missing.

Earlier, Farlam, walked through the streets of Nkaneng informal settlements, where wires from illegal electricity connections criss cross the dusty streets.

He heard accounts of how police opened fire with rubber bullet on three women who were standing at a spaza shop.

One of the women, Paulina Mashutlo, an ANC proportional representative councillor, died later in hospital.

The commission also visited the sight of the August 16 shooting, where yellow paint markings on rocks told the horrors of that day that remains in infamy.

If the commission does go full speed ahead as Malunga says, the families of those who died may at last know exactly where to erect monuments or conduct traditional rites at the spots where they died.

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