Marikana: NUM president sent SOS to police minister

2013-01-31 14:44

National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) president Senzeni Zokwana has told the Marikana Commission of Inquiry he contacted the minister of police Nathi Mthethwa to request that reinforcements be sent to Marikana to avert further loss of life.

Zokwana said he made the call after the killing of two security guards by striking mineworkers on August 12 as an unprotected strike by more than

3 000 rock drill operators turned violent.

He said he made the decision after seeing photographs and video footage of the bodies of the two security guards, Frans Mabelane and Hassan Fundi, who had been hacked, shot and burnt to death by mineworkers.

Mabelane and Fundi, who were employed by Lonmin, were killed during a confrontation with a group of heavily armed mineworkers near the Wonderkop hostel.

They were robbed of their cellphones and firearms and one of them had his tongue cut out.

“The viciousness, the cruelty I saw in those films shocked me. I could not understand how human beings could do that,” Zokwana said during leading of evidence by NUM lawyer Karel Tip SC.

“I was shocked that people were killed like that, burnt in their cars ...” he said.

Describing the situation in Marikana at the time, Zokwana said he had never before come across such a threatening and aggressive attitude by workers in his many years as a unionist.

He said this attitude made it impossible for the NUM to become involved in negotiations with the striking rock drill operators.

He said the singing of a song calling for his killing and that of the NUM scared him and made him concerned about the safety of others when he went to the koppie where they had gathered on August 15.

“More threatening was that they were using assegaais and pangas to make a clanking sound,” Zokwana said.

He said the rock drill operators had made it clear when they embarked on an unprotected strike that they did not want NUM to negotiate on their behalf.

The union has told the commission they were opposed to the unprotected strike.

He said the threatening of the union’s shop?stewards, threats to burn down the union’s office and the violent conduct of the striking rock drill operators, had prompted him to seek intervention from minister Mthethwa.

Zokwana told the commission Mthethwa had called him back to say he would ensure that police officers were deployed in the area.

He said he feared that “more lives would be lost” if there was no urgent deployment of police reinforcements in the area.

Two police officers and three civilians were killed a day after Zokwana’s SOS to Mthethwa. By August 16, the death toll had risen to 10.

The commission has previously heard evidence that police specialised units, including the Special Task Force, Tactical Reaction Team, K-9, National Intervention Unit, crime intelligence and the public order policing units were deployed in Marikana as the violence escalated.

Police opened fire and killed 34 of the protesting mineworkers on August 16.

The commission is probing the circumstances that led to the deaths of the 44 people.

The hearing continues.

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