Lonmin: Questions for Zuma

2012-08-18 19:27

Why did cops act against their own orders and mine bosses refuse to talk?

President Jacob Zuma’s commission of inquiry into Thursday’s Lonmin massacre should answer these five questions:
» Why did police use live ammunition after an order was issued last year forbidding the use of even rubber bullets during public protests?
» Why did Lonmin bosses refuse to negotiate with representatives of the Associated Mining and Construction Union (Amcu) after initially agreeing to?
» Why didn’t the country’s intelligence services pick up
on the brewing tension at the mine and take the appropriate action?
» Who supplied the newly made traditional weapons carried by thousands of
angry miners?
» Do platinum mines discriminate in favour of certain categories of workers when it comes to wage negotiations?

These are the main questions emerging in the aftermath of the blood bath that left 34 workers dead and 78 injured at Lonmin’s Marikana mine in North West.

City Press asked workers, police officers, mining bosses and politicians what key questions Zuma’s probe
should answer.

On Friday, the president announced the establishment of a commission of inquiry “to uncover the truth about what happened here”.

Zuma suggested a sinister motive behind the shootings, saying he didn’t expect such incidents in a country with a “high level” of labour organisation.

City Press can reveal that police officers were ordered in an official memo late last year not even to use rubber bullets, except as a “last resort”, during efforts to control public protests – in stark contrast to the live rounds used by officers at Lonmin.

Two weeks ago Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa asked cops to use only water cannons against protesters.

On December 20 2011, Lieutenant General Elias Mawela, divisional commissioner for operational response services (responsible for maintaining public order), issued a memo clearly aimed at reducing the potential for violence in the police response to public protests.

The order, in the possession of City Press, was circulated to all provincial police bosses.

The document made a clear reference to the outcry following the death of community activist Andries Tatane, who was shot with rubber bullets during a service delivery protest in Ficksburg in April 2011.

“The use of rubber rounds and shotguns must be stopped with immediate effect,” the memo states.

Water cannons should be used, but according to the Institute for Security Studies’ Johan Burger, there are only 10 water cannons in the country.

It has further emerged that the group of 3 000 rock-drill operators at Lonmin had been willing to lay down their weapons and leave the hill if the mine had been willing to reopen wage negotiations.

The workers gave this undertaking on Wednesday night to the president of Amcu, Joseph Mathunjwa.

Together with two of the union bosses, Mathunjwa visited the hill three times to tell workers that their employers would not give them any undertakings and that they should lay down their weapons and leave the hill.

Once he got the go-ahead from the workers on Wednesday night that they were willing to talk, he gave the message to the police and it was agreed that Lonmin’s managers would give him feedback at 8am on Thursday.

But the next morning, Lonmin’s bosses were nowhere to be found, and when Mathunjwa spoke to them hours later they were not willing to start negotiations.

Mathunjwa left the hill after he could not convince workers to leave.

Frans Baleni, general secretary of the rival National Union of Mineworkers, said Zuma’s commission should determine who organised the march.

“I went to see those weapons that were being carried and they are scary. They were manufactured. I was told there was a workshop they went to in order to get metal into certain shapes. They were made to
kill with.”

Intelligence spokesperson Brian Dube said: “We refuse to be drawn into a blame game.”

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