The recently killed mine worker Tholakele Dlunga may have paid with his life for being suspected of planning to implicate his co-accused in multiple murders seen during the violent Lonmin strike in 2012.
City Press understands there was a rumour among the mining community across Marikana and Lonmin mines that Dlunga, affectionately known as “Bhele”, was about to strike a deal with the state in what would have seen him testify against his co-accused.
Dlunga and 16 others were charged for several deaths, including the killings of two police officers, two Lonmin security officials and some mine workers during the 2012 strike in Marikana. These deaths occurred a few days before the fateful August 16 2012 massacre during which 34 striking Lonmin workers were killed by the police. Dlunga faced other charges, including for unlawful possession of a firearm.
The word was that one of the accused men, Anele Zonke, was strongly considering turning state witness and Dlunga was to follow him and the two would corroborate each other’s statements, confess to some killings they had taken part in and implicate others in return for a lighter sentence to be recommended by the state. Both Zonke and Dlunga were among the 2012 Lonmin strike leaders.
The group’s legal representative Andries Nkome has denied any knowledge of this, saying it was never part of his discussion with the 39-year-old Dlunga shortly before his death as he represented him in their last court appearance.
“I spoke to Dlunga on the day he was shot and at no stage did he say he wanted to withdraw [and turn state witness]. He also did not express any concerns over his personal safety, but like many of us, he was worried about the general killings,” Nkome said.
City Press heard from more than five sources close to the accused group about Dlunga’s perceived plans. However, Frank Lesenyego, spokesperson for prosecution in the North West, said he was also not aware of any deal negotiated between Dlunga and the state. “We also don’t want to interfere in any way in affairs between a client and their legal representation.”
The platinum belt has recently become a hot bed for killings with seven mine workers already dead in about three months. This has led to many others deserting their jobs and fleeing the Rustenburg area to save their own skins.
The killings were earlier linked to troubles within the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu). Reports claimed the union was experiencing cracks along tribal lines between the amaMpondo and amaBomvana.
This has raised fears of revenge killings and of violence escalating.
"They want us to finish each other"
Amcu president Joseph Mathunjwa this week denied the existence of internal battles. Addressing an Amcu mass meeting in Marikana on Wednesday, he said the killings were planned by those outside Amcu as a way of destroying it so that the ANC-aligned National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) could regain control. He reminded the workers about the plight of the Mouthpiece Workers Union in the 1990s, which tried to unseat the NUM.
Amcu unseated the NUM as majority union after the 2012 Marikana massacre.
“Right after Mouthpiece Workers’ Union was founded in 1997, workers joined in numbers because they were fed up with NUM. When they saw that Mouthpiece had reached majority status, they started killing workers and police looked the other way,” Mathunjwa said.
“They’re bringing the same strategy to Lonmin that they used to finish Mouthpiece. They want us to finish each other and once you’re done killing each other then they will bring back the NUM just like it happened in 1997 ... there is no tribalism.”
Mathunjwa also blamed the police for dragging their feet on investigating and arresting those behind the killings.
He said his union has already put up R100 000 reward and was spending money on private investigations into the killings. Mathunjwa said information and evidence were presented to the police but to no avail.
He accused the police of failing to arrest a man despite evidence presented by Amcu because, at the eleventh hour, a call came from the powers that be.
“What do you call that?” Mathunjwa said, adding that Amcu would continue with its private investigations and pass on information to the police.
“The vengeance is not for us ... If we have to bring in the renowned private investigator Paul O’Sullivan, I will go and knock at his door,” Mathunjwa said.
“We’re not happy at a worker’s death. If we have to bring Lonmin to a standstill until our safety can be assured, we’ll do it.”
North West police spokesperson Brigadier Sabata Mokgwabone said they were not aware of the allegations to which Mathunjwa was referring.
“We have no arrest at this stage. A task team has been appointed to investigate recent cases of murder and attempted murder,” he said.
Sources close to the police investigations said, however, one suspect was arrested this week in connection with an attempted murder where an Amcu official survived a shooting attack in Marikana last month.
They also confirmed that police have been working with a private investigator hired by Mathunjwa but said they were not aware of any arrests made and people later released as claimed by the Amcu leader.