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Mon Sep 01 20:43:19 SAST 2014

Marikana inquiry updates: 22 October 2012

Times LIVE and Sapa | 22 October, 2012 11:16
Workers of Marikana's Lonmin mine meet near the koppie where their colleagues where killed by the police during a strike.
Image by: Sydney Seshibedi

All of today's stories on the Marikana inquiry in one place.

14 miners shot in the back: lawyer - Sapa

Fourteen of the 34 Lonmin platinum miners killed by the police in August were shot in the back, a judicial inquiry into the Marikana shooting heard on Monday.

"All fatal projectile wounds were sustained from the back," advocate Dumisa Ntsebeza told the Farlam commission at the Rustenburg Civic Centre, North West.

"Those who were killed were unlawfully killed by SAPS [the SA Police Service]," he said in his opening remarks.

On August 16 the police opened fire while trying to disperse a group of striking mineworkers encamped on a hill in Nkaneng, killing 34 and wounding 78.

The workers had been carrying knobkerries, pangas, sticks, and iron rods.

The miners went on strike on August 10, demanding a monthly salary of R12,500. Within four days, 10 people had been killed, two of them policemen and two of them security guards.

Ntsebeza represents the Eastern Cape families of 20 of the men who died.

The family members, many of the women wearing black and blue mourning clothes, sat in the first two front rows of the auditorium at the hearing.

Ntsebeza said the police had claimed the mineworkers charged at officers because they had taken muti (traditional medicine) which made them feel invincible. This was the police's justification for killing them.

"For us, the subtext of this justification... is that the miners, according to them [police], acted like possessed men, that they had to be destroyed like vermin and that they were destroyed like vermin," he said.

"Whatever the truth of that tragic day, it cannot be that the SAPS could not have acted differently. [They] could and should have brought the gathering to an end peacefully and without loss of life," Ntsebeza said.

He said his team would contend that every step the police took leading up to August 16, and on the day itself, made the workers' deaths foreseeable and inevitable.

Ntsebeza agreed it was the police's job to disarm people and disperse gatherings, and that the way they had done so in Marikana was not legitimate.

"The manner and timing... invited injury and death as well."

He said the police's decision to send National Union of Mineworkers and Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union officials to discuss the striking workers' demands was not the correct one.

"SAPS officers on the scene must have known workers were not under the control of the unions... This was a public order issue, not a labour issue," said Ntsebeza.

It appeared the police had not given the mineworkers an official order to disperse, but rather an ultimatum, and had encircled and entrapped the protesters with barbed wire.

"Blocking the miners' dispersal route to Nkaneng informal settlement... [they] had no choice but to move in numbers towards police with nowhere else to go," he said.

"Some of these miners were shot in the back and the back of the head while trying to get away."

Ntsebeza said the police's response to the protest was aggressive, misguided, disproportionate, unreasonable, and unlawful.

Who gave permission to kill?: Bizos - Sapa

The judicial inquiry into the Marikana shootings must establish who told the police to use live ammunition on protesting miners, human rights lawyer George Bizos SC, said on Monday.

The conduct of the SA Police Service officers was "unique", he told the three-member judicial commission, led by retired judge Ian Farlam, at the Rustenburg Civic Centre, North West.

"We are going to call in experts to prove that what the police did on August 16 is unheard of in the whole world. We are going to ask for permission to cross-examine those who gave [the] permission," he said.

"If you have 3000 protesting people on one side, some of them armed, and you turn R-5s and R-6s on them, that is unique and historically that is incorrect."

Bizos is representing the Legal Resources Centre and the Bench Marks Foundation in the inquiry.

He said his team would present evidence to prove that the shootings on August 16 were acts of revenge by police officers, for the earlier deaths of their colleagues.

"Is it a matter of good luck or divine intervention that we have 34 protesters killed and not a single injury to a policeman?" asked Bizos.

"We have read many papers, maybe we have missed the part which says a police officer was scratched, never mind being shot, on August 16."

Acts of revenge would not solve the problems of the police, workers, and the country as a whole, Bizos said.

Statements claiming the authorisation to use live ammunition either came from national police commissioner Riah Phiyega or Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa needed to be examined.

"It may be necessary for all the people concerned in this to be interrogated. They [the police officers] may have been influenced by someone in a high authority -- the 'shoot to kill' sentiment."

Bizos said it would have to be established why the forensic examination of the bodies found that most were shot in the back.

"Some of these people were shot whilst running away. Some were shot far from the place of the danger [a hill near the Nkaneng informal settlement].

"Who took that decision to shoot?" Bizos repeatedly asked.

Police have maintained they fired at the protesters as a last resort when the armed crowd charged at them.

On August 16 police opened fire while trying to disperse a group encamped on a hill in Nkaneng, killing 34 mineworkers and wounding 78.

The workers had been carrying knobkerries, pangas, sticks, and iron rods.

Workers at the mine went on strike on August 10, demanding a monthly salary of R12,500. Within four days, 10 people had been killed, two of them policemen and another two security guards.

Dead NUM leader was going to be a witness: lawyer - Sapa

A NUM branch secretary who was killed in Marikana earlier this month was going to be a material witness, the judicial inquiry into the shooting at the Lonmin mine heard on Monday.

"He [Daluvuyo Bongo] had attended the inspection of October 1 and 2," the National Union of Mineworkers lawyer Karel Tip said.

"[On October 2] he pointed out various areas in and around the NUM offices."

Tip was making his opening comments at the inquiry chaired by retired judge Ian Farlam.

Tip said NUM believed Bongo's murder was a "target killing".

Bongo was shot six times at his home at the Wonderkop hostel complex in Marikana on October 5.

The commission had visited this hostel three days before he was shot.

"Many NUM leaders and shopstewards have had to leave their residences," said Tip.

This had an impact on NUM's preparation for the inquiry.

Earlier this month the commission conducted an in loco inspection of the area where 34 miners had been shot and 78 injured on August 16.

The inspection included the mining hostels, the informal settlement, and the hospital where injured miners were taken.

One of the areas also inspected was the NUM office in Marikana were mine workers said union officials shot at them.

Tip said evidence would show that NUM had held numerous meetings encouraging its members not to take part in the unprotected strike.

It also assisted its members and other workers who were trying to go to work at the time.

On August 11 several hundred strikers marched to the NUM office.

"[They marched] with malicious attempt and a confrontation ensued," said Tip.

"There are different versions... But NUM will show that the use of firearms was justified."

Tip gave commissioners background to how the unprotected strikes in the North West started, saying the August 16 shooting "had roots in previous disputes". He was referring to incidents at Impala Platinum and Lonmin's Karee mine.

Tip also pointed out that the commission was conducting its work as violence and intimidation at Marikana was continuing.

The situation which led to the August 16 shooting had not abated and had spread to other mines resulting in more deaths.

Lonmin's lawyer Schalk Burger, told the commission evidence for the mining company would testify to the demands leading to the strike, confrontation between striking workers and NUM officials on August 11, and the killings on August 12 and 13.

Burger said Lonmin's evidence would not look at who caused the shooting.

"We will do this after we have given evidence... We will not engage with fingers already pointed," he said.

Burger said the intimidation of Lonmin witnesses had also been a problem.

Marikana could have been avoided: police - Sapa

The Marikana tragedy which led to the deaths of mineworkers, police officers, and security guards could have been prevented had all stakeholders played their roles effectively, the judicial commission of inquiry heard on Monday.

Presenting his opening statement on behalf of the South African Police Service (Saps), advocate Ishmael Semenya said evidence would prove that Lonmin, protesters, rival trade unions, and the mineral resources department could have avoided the August "bloodshed".

"At the outset we stated that the failure by other parties to play their roles cannot be justification for the loss of lives in Marikana.

"However, this failure cannot be ignored if we are to learn from this event and to ensure that they do not re-occur. This tragedy could have been averted had the parties involved played their proper roles," said Semenya.

There was evidence that Lonmin had previously struck a wage deal outside collective bargaining processes with workers in July 2012.

Later on, the company "steadfastly" refused to engage workers over another wage dispute in August.

"They (Lonmin) contended that the protest was illegal and they were not willing to negotiate outside bargaining processes. This inconsistent approach might have sent a wrong message to the workers," he said.

"The workers believed they could achieve much more following a violent protest. Lonmin caused this (problem)," said Semenya.

The company had not done enough, as stipulated in the mining charter, to provide adequate, proper accommodation for its employees. The mineral resources department was also fingered for failing to enforce implementation of the housing and living conditions standards developed in 2009.

"The apparent failure to monitor progress [on the implementation] could very well have contributed to the events which culminated in this tragedy," said Semenya.

He also submitted that prior to the bloodshed of August 16, violent clashes had been reported between the National Union of Mineworkers and the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu).

"The question which arises is 'what role did the union leaders play to calm down the situation?'. We will argue that nothing or little was done by the leaders," he said.

Referring to the illegal gatherings which degenerated to the violent clashes, Semenya said evidence would prove that citizens' right to assemble freely, "could not be ascertained outside the perimeters of the law".

"The carrying of arms [by protesters], charging at police, the destruction of property, killing of police officers and security guards cannot be justified in a constitutional democracy.

"It will be argued that unions have a moral duty to instil discipline among their members," said Semenya.

Police opened fire while trying to disperse a group encamped on a hill in Nkaneng, killing 34 mineworkers and wounding 78 on August 16.

The workers had been carrying knobkerries, pangas, sticks, and iron rods.

Workers at the mine went on strike on August 10, demanding a monthly salary of R12,500. Within four days, 10 people had been killed, two of them policemen and two security guards.

Semenya said police evidence would show that some protesters had wanted a "bloodbath", and that police had set out to perform to the best of their abilities in a difficult situation.

Num remembers Bongo - Sapa

Members of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) paid tribute to their slain branch secretary Daluvuyo Bongo at the Farlam Commission in Rustenburg.

Dressed in red union t-shirts bearing Bongo's face, a delegation from the union sat in the public gallery listening to advocate Ishmael Semenya, for the police, telling of the rivalry between NUM and the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu).

"On this sad day we remember Bongo, a selfless leader," said one man from the delegation, declining to be named and saying the person appointed to comment was at the Rustenburg Magistrate's Court.

Bongo was shot dead at Marikana on October 5.

NUM said at the time of his death he was to present key information to the commission.

Two men, Zenzile Nxenge and Sizakhele Kwazile, have been arrested in connection with the murder.

They were expected to appear in the Rustenburg Magistrate's Court to apply for bail.

The rivalry between Amcu and NUM was reported to have been the issue that led to the strike at Lonmin in Marikana.

The labour dispute resulted in at least 45 people being killed.

The Farlam Commission is investigating the deaths of 34 people in a shooting on August 16.

Lethal force was a last resort: advocate - Sapa

The use of "lethal force" at Marikana was a last resort, the judicial commission of inquiry into the shooting deaths of 34 Lonmin platinum mine workers heard on Monday.

"This happened despite particular scenario planning by senior generals," said SA Police Service advocate Ishmael Semenya.

"The police remained focused on one key outcome: a peaceful resolution."

Semenya said there had been no murderous intent by the police.

He was reading out his opening statement to the commission, detailing the police's case and evidence that would be presented.

The police opened fire while trying to disperse a group encamped on a hill in Nkaneng, killing 34 mineworkers and wounding 78 on August 16.

The workers had been carrying knobkerries, pangas, sticks and iron rods.

Workers at the mine went on strike on August 10, demanding a monthly salary of R12,500. Within four days, 10 people had been killed, two of them policemen and two of them security guards.

Semenya said the police's evidence would show that some protesters had wanted a "bloodbath", and that the police had set out to perform to the best of their abilities in a difficult situation.

He said some police officers, who had been affected by the killings of their colleagues during the strike, had been removed from Marikana and placed somewhere else.

Semenya said the police's evidence would show that before the shooting numerous attempts were made to persuade protesters to disarm themselves.

"They had refused and proceeded to the koppie, killing two police officers and seriously injuring one.

"They also robbed the police officers of two pistols, an R5 rifle, a shotgun, two-way radio and ammunition," Semenya said.

Teargas, stun-grenades and rubber bullets were used to disperse the protesting miners.

"None of these measures had deterred the protesters," he said.

Two days before the shooting police had been in negotiations with the mineworkers, and had asked them to peacefully disarm.

Semenya said that at 1.30pm on August 16, police took the decision to disperse and disarm the protesters by 3.30pm.

They warned the miners not to breach a police barricade of barbed wire, but the miners refused to back down. They tried three times to do so, he said.

Even though teargas, stun-grenades, water cannons and rubber bullets were used, miners protected their bodies by wrapping themselves with extra clothing and blankets, Semenya said.

On their third attempt, the miners got past the police barricade.

"Officers from the tactical response team... opened fire on the protesters with live ammunition without instruction from anyone," he said.

"Most regrettably, 16 people died on that occasion."

Mathunjwa arrives at inquiry - Sapa

Association of Mineworkers and Construction (Amcu) president Joseph Mathunjwa arrived at the Farlam Commission hearing in Rustenburg on Monday.

He picked up an access card near the entrance and went into the hall.

His union has been accused of spearheading attacks on members of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) during the Lonmin strike, a claim he has denied.

"We are not fighting anyone. We have been organising at Lonmin and have not experienced any problems. We hold meetings. Why would we resort to violence now?" he asked during the commission's in loco inspection in Marikana.

He said he wanted the commission to uncover the truth about what led to the shooting on August 16.

Police regret Marikana - Sapa

The SA Police Service (SAPS) has "deep regrets" about the Marikana mine shootings, a judicial commission heard on Monday.

Advocate Ishmael Semenya, for the police, said the loss of lives and the injuries were regrettable.

"As we set out to assist this commission with establishing the facts around the Marikana tragedy, we wish to underscore our deep tragedy," he said.

"Our thoughts are with all families of all sides of that occasion who have lost loved ones. Our best wishes go to those recovering physically and psychologically," said Semenya.

Thirty-four miners at Lonmin's platinum mine in Marikana were killed and 78 were wounded when the police opened fire on them while trying to disperse a group of striking workers gathered on a hill in Nkaneng, near the mine, on August 16.

The workers had been carrying knobkerries, pangas, sticks and iron rods.

Workers at the mine went on strike on August 10, demanding a monthly salary of R12,500.

Within four days, 10 people had been killed, two of them policemen and two of them security guards.

The day after the shooting, President Jacob Zuma ordered a commission of inquiry into its cause.

"We have to uncover the truth about what happened here. In this regard I've decided to institute a commission of inquiry. The inquiry will enable us to get to the real cause of the incident," he said at the time.

On Monday, national police commissioner General Riah Phiyega joined a group of people at the Rustenburg Civic Centre, where the inquiry, which is chaired by retired judge Ian Farlam, was to resume.

It was postponed on October 3 to give the families of the dead a chance to attend the proceedings.

Phiyega was shown in after 9am and took a seat in the public gallery.

Families of many of the miners shown in to the auditorium took seats in the front rows and were issued with access cards by officials.

Some of the women were in black and blue mourning clothes with blankets draped over their shoulders. Two of them refused to sit on chairs, but chose to sit on the floor instead, in line with their tradition.

Legal teams, the evidence leading team and several lawyers representing different parties, including the families, government departments and human rights bodies sat on opposite sides, facing each other.

Respected human rights lawyer George Bizos SC was there with his legal team to represent the Legal Resources Centre and the Bench Marks Foundation.

Blue and orange banners were erected outside the entrance to the civic centre advertising the commission with the tag line "committed to finding the truth in the interest of restoration and justice".

On Monday, the evidence leaders were expected to present post mortem reports and other formal evidence, including a ballistics report.

Legal teams would be given a chance to question the evidence, and crime scene experts would also testify.

The commission said that because of the large volume of material involved it was not possible to predict the pace of the proceedings.

Families arrive at Marikana - Sapa

The families of the 34 mineworkers killed in Marikana in August arrived in Rustenburg on Monday for a hearing of the commission of inquiry into the shooting.

They were ushered into the front rows of the auditorium and were issued with access cards by officials.

The commission postponed the hearing on October 3, to give them a chance to attend the proceedings.

Some of the women were in black and blue mourning clothes with blankets draped over their shoulders. Two of them refused to sit on chairs, but chose to sit on the floor instead, in line with their tradition.

Retired judge Ian Farlam is heading the commission into the deaths of the 34 Lonmin mineworkers, who were shot by police trying to disperse a group of striking workers gathered on a hill in Nkaneng, near the mine, on August 16.   The workers had been carrying knobkerries, pangas, sticks and iron rods.

Workers at the mine went on strike on August 10, demanding a monthly salary of R12,500.

Within four days, 10 people had been killed, two of them policemen and two of them security guards.

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