Marikana: Worker sliced off his toe to escape shooting

A Marikana mine worker used a butcher’s knife to slice off his injured toe while running away from police gunfire that killed 34 of his colleagues.

Siphethe Phatsha, a survivor of the shooting at Marikana on August 16 last year, told the Marikana Commission of Inquiry today that he saw some of the mine workers being shot by police while they had their hands raised in surrender.

The commission is probing the circumstances that led to the deaths of 44 people who died during a strike by mine workers employed by platinum mining giant Lonmin in August last year.

Phatsha said he had run, together with other workers, towards the path next to a cattle kraal, with the intention of escaping to Nkaneng informal settlement.

This was after he had noticed that one of the police’s armoured vehicles was dragging barbed wire in an attempt to close in the group of about 3 000 mine workers gathered on a koppie.

He said police had fired tear gas and sprayed them with water canon as they fled. Phatsha said when they emerged from behind the kraal they were fired on with live ammunition by another group of policemen.

“I jumped over the bodies of the injured or dead colleagues and ran into the kraal. I think I lost my shoes in the kraal. I then noticed that my left toe was severely injured. I thought I had been shot from one of the helicopters,” said Phatsha during the leading of evidence by Advocate Dali Mpofu, who represents the injured and the arrested.

“The injured toe was impeding my movements and also getting caught by stones and plants on the ground. I decided to cut off the loose toe in order to be in a better position to run. I used a bush knife, which I was carrying, to cut off my ruptured and loose toe,” he said.

Phatsha said he left the toe right there in the dust and continued to run to the small koppie to hide.

“I noticed how some people were being shot while coming out of their hiding places with their hands raised up as a sign of surrendering,” he said.

Phatsha was taken to hospital where he was later visited by President Jacob Zuma.

The commission was shown footage of Phatsha and other injured miners in hospital, speaking, apparently to Zuma, about their horrific experiences at the scene.

The hearing continues.

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