Lonmin security failed the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) days before the deadly shooting at its Marikana mine, the Farlam commission of inquiry heard on Friday.
"On that day, they [NUM members] were failed by the system that was suppose to protect them," NUM president Senzeni Zokwana told the hearing at the Rustenburg civic centre.
He was referring to the events of August 11, when striking workers tried to attack the NUM's office at the platinum mine, in North West.
NUM members inside the office armed themselves on hearing that strikers were on their way to burn down the building.
The two groups were about to meet when shots were fired and the strikers fled. Two strikers were injured.
Ishmael Semenya, for the police, asked Zokwana if the NUM condoned shots being fired at crowds.
"NUM would denounce any form of violence, especially by its leaders," Zokwana answered, but said union members' lives had been threatened by the large crowd of armed strikers.
Semenya said he was concerned that this might send a message that people should try to defend themselves, instead of contacting the authorities.
Zokwana said Lonmin security guards went to the NUM's office before the strikers arrived and told members to leave as they could not protect them.
"We would never encourage people to take it [the law] into their own hands. It's not the way we work. We respect the law of this country."
However, members had been let down by security on the day.
On August 16, 34 striking mineworkers were shot dead and 78 were wounded when police opened fire while trying to disperse a group gathered on a hill near the mine.
In the preceding week, 10 people, including two police officers and two security guards, were hacked to death.
The commission is investigating the circumstances of the deaths.