Marikana: Police could have done more to ease situation

2013-05-17 14:20

The police could have done more to ease the situation in Marikana during last year’s unrest, the Farlam Commission of Inquiry has heard.

Heidi Barnes, for the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu), said the police should have intervened when the union’s president Joseph Mathunjwa told them Lonmin was not willing to engage with workers.

“They should have organised a meeting with Lonmin,” she said.

Mathunjwa should not have been allowed to deliver the bad news of a failed negotiation to the Lonmin workers on his own, considering how tense the situation was, Barnes said.

The commission, chaired by retired judge Ian Farlam, is investigating the circumstances surrounding the deaths of 44 people, 34 of whom were shot dead by the police, near Lonmin’s platinum mine in Marikana last year.

Lonmin had cited a standing two-year agreement on pay hikes as a reason not to engage with the miners.

Lonmin had promised to negotiate with miners on condition they return to work, but quickly changed their position on this statement.

“Two things should have happened on that fateful morning,” Barnes said. “Lonmin should have been contacted and Mr Mathunjwa should not have have addressed the belligerent miners with bad news.”

Barnes was cross-examining Maj-Gen Charl Annandale, who headed the police tactical response team during the unrest.

Annandale agreed the police could have asked Mathunjwa to wait for them to engage with Lonmin before speaking to the strikers.

“But he was a responsible person,” said Annandale.

He said that regardless of how unhappy Mathunjwa was with the situation, he had kept calm.

Earlier, the commission heard that police officials referred to the situation as “Amcu unrest”.

Barnes said, according to police documents, there were “clashes between Amcu and security guards” and “clashes between Amcu and police”.

Annandale agreed the unrest was not just wage-related, but also a result of clashes between Amcu and National Union of Mineworkers’ (NUM) members.

Barnes said during a meeting with the police on August 13, 2012, Lonmin said the strikers were faceless people.

“They were not even sure whether these people were employed by Lonmin.”

Annandale said he learnt from police intelligence officers, Maj-Gen William Mpembe and Brigadier Adriaan Calitz, and Lonmin officials that those involved in the unrest and those who were wounded were Amcu members.

Barnes said that, according to Lonmin’s documents, 35% of the strikers were Amcu affiliates, while 55% belonged to the NUM.

The commission, sitting in Rustenburg, adjourned for the weekend. The cross-examination of Annandale is expected to continue on Monday.

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