Protesters' path choice questioned

2013-03-04 20:05
(Picture: Sapa)

(Picture: Sapa)

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Rustenburg - The path chosen by a group of protesters shot by police at Marikana on 16 August 16 did not make sense, a lawyer for the police told the Farlam commission of inquiry on Monday.

Vuyani Ngalwana asked Mzoxolo Magidiwana, an employee at platinum miner Lonmin, to describe why the group of striking miners he was with chose to run towards the police line.

Magidiwana said they chose a smaller path leading to the Nkaneng informal settlement, because police had blocked a larger road leading there.

Ngalwana insisted the police were not blocking the bigger road at that time.

"You were heading for Nkaneng, a group of about 200. It makes sense you would use the big path and leave the police alone. There was no Nyala blocking the road at that time."

Magidiwana said a Nyala, an armoured personnel carrier, accelerated to close the gap between the group and a nearby kraal.

Legal representative Dali Mpofu suggested they were speaking at cross purposes, and asked if they were discussing the first or second approach.

Commission chairperson Ian Farlam suggested they adjourn until Tuesday morning.

"I fear the way things are going, we will never get anywhere."

Much of the afternoon session was taken up by attempts to define where the smaller path lay on the map, and trying to determine the movements of Magidiwana's group on 16 August.

Earlier, Magidiwana denied that words uttered by workers' representative Mgcineni Noki were a challenge.

Noki apparently told police: "... You are going to die here, we are going to finish each other... Let us sign a paper so that the whole world can see how we will kill each other today."

Magidiwana said he had not heard Noki, also known as Mambush. Ngalwana, asked Magidiwana whether, if these words were addressed to him, he would consider this a challenge.

Magidiwana replied: "No, that is not so."

He had also not believed Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) president Joseph Mthunjwa when he went to the hill where the strikers had gathered, and warned them they should leave to avoid bloodshed.

Farlam asked whether Magidiwana had believed Mthunjwa when he said a decision had been made that the protesters would be killed.

Magidiwana replied: "I never believed that. I never thought about that."

Mthunjwa was not believed because no unions were involved in the workers' demands for a monthly wage of R12 500.

However, when police Nyalas began rolling out barbed wire, he realised that what Mthunjwa had said was true, Magidiwana said.

Farlam asked why a group of protesters had run towards police, "making it easier for them to kill you".

"[We] never went towards the police," Magidiwana said.

Farlam said: "You went towards them, you were reducing the distance between them and you."

"No, it was not like that," Magidiwana replied.

Magidiwana previously told the commission that police repeatedly shot and beat him on 16 August. He was arrested for possession of a firearm, but could not be detained because of the severity of his injuries.

He has denied police claims that he carried a firearm and that he shot at a Nyala.

The commission is holding hearings in Rustenburg, North West, as part of its inquiry into the deaths of 44 people during an unprotected strike in Marikana last year.

On 16 August, 34 striking mineworkers were shot dead and 78 injured when police opened fire while trying to disperse a group which had gathered on a hill near the mine.

Ten people, including two police officers and two security guards, were killed near the mine in the preceding week.

Read more on:    ian farlam  |  mahikeng  |  mining unrest  |  marikana inquiry

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