Marikana aftermath – The stories rocks can tell

2012-09-01 15:33

Evidence found on a koppie in Marikana reveals what might have happened to some of the slain miners in their last moments

At least 14 miners were found dead at a place locals call Small Koppie near the now infamous rock of Wonderkop, 300m away from where police officially opened fire on striking miners in “self-defence”.

The story is one that most of the miners who survived the massacre at Marikana – in which 34 died and 78 were wounded – swear by.

One of them told City Press this week it was the “place where the executions took place”.

The koppie is little more than a rocky outcrop, a collection of large boulders interspersed with patches of grass, scrub brush and thorn trees that cover an irregularly shaped area about twice the size of a soccer field.

City Press returned to the scene with Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist Greg Marinovich, who broke the news earlier this week about the second theatre of battle between the police and miners, where evidence pointed to police in camouflage uniforms gunning down miners at close range.

Ribbons of toilet paper snarled in thorn bushes and the stench of human excrement suggested the nooks and crannies here were used as latrines before they carried the congealed blood of dying men.

After the now-infamous Wonderkop shooting, where TV cameras captured police opening fire on miners, the hilly outcrop is the next most elevated feature of the flat terrain.

On Friday, investigators from the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid) were forced to return there after City Press found evidence they had missed.

The evidence appeared to tell the tale of someone trying to hide.

In a narrow crevice between two 4m-high boulders, a black bloodstain can be seen on the ground.

At head height, drops of blood appear to indicate a person climbing an adjacent tree or standing above the boulder, and, on top of it, a stick and a metal pipe lie parallel to each other.

It was on top of this boulder that City Press found an intact R5 assault rifle bullet that appeared to have ricocheted off the surface of a rock.

The boulder is just metres from where bright-green letters are spray-painted on rock surfaces to mark not only the locations of bodies, but other significant evidence found by the Ipid.

It is in this area where the majority of bodies appear to have lain, at the farthest edge of the area from Wonderkop where the surface of Small Koppie funnels into a lower corner with rock and brush barriers that have limited escape routes.

Although Ipid investigators refused to comment when called to the scene to collect further evidence, other Ipid sources and others close to the investigation told City Press what the markings refer to.

Almost on top of each other are G and H, spray-painted letters marking where two bodies lay.

K and J, which also mark the presence of bodies, lie on the opposite side of a tall ridge of rock, about a metre from the letter I.

Across a patch of veld lies N, a mass of congealed blood surrounded on all sides by four large boulders.

The confined space would have required the person hiding there to crouch under the branches.

It was here that Marinovich reported that the shooting of N would have had to have been from “very close” range.

Other evidence City Press and Marinovich found at the scene indicates the shootings are spread out right across Small Koppie, borne out by an R5 rifle casing discovered near to where A and B were found – near the edge of the koppie closest to Wonderkop.

The information appears to corroborate claims by University of Johannesburg sociology professor Peter Alexander, based on interviews with miners, that those who fled here tried to find cover from police gunfire and the police launched a premeditated attack on them.

Jeromme Iza, from Eastern Cape, was part of the group of miners fired on by police. He said the miners who headed for the small koppie “were running”.

He said: “They were shot while trying to escape.”

Iza repeated claims that the miners were fired on from helicopters and some of them were run over by armoured police vehicles while taking cover, borne out by claims of horrendous crush injuries some of the dead were said to have sustained.

But marker F casts a different light on the scene.

This marker did not indicate a body, but the position of a recovered handgun in the area in which most of the bodies were found. City Press has learnt this was not a police firearm.

An insider in the investigation said the koppie also represented a “defensive position”.

Seen from this perspective, could the scene have been the sight of a rallying point, turning the area into a battleground?

Blood-spattered rocks and luminous letters tell an incomplete tale.

But it’s clear that here one of the glaring questions about that day will have to be answered: why were 14 miners killed more than 300m from where police, in their version, fired in self-defence?

Police spokesperson Dennis Adriao said he could not comment on the new information as they have to respect the legal processes of the commission of inquiry appointed by President Jacob Zuma.

Ipid spokesperson Moses Dlamini could not be reached for comment.

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