We could not disperse, police blocked our path: Marikana witness

05 March 2013 - 15:30 By Sapa
Police stand over dead and injured miners in Marikana, near Rustenburg, on August 16. The commission of inquiry into the shooting saw video footage and listened to voice recordings that captured the last moments before police opened fire.
Police stand over dead and injured miners in Marikana, near Rustenburg, on August 16. The commission of inquiry into the shooting saw video footage and listened to voice recordings that captured the last moments before police opened fire.
Image: ALON SKUY

A miner wounded at Marikana on August 16 insisted at the Farlam Commission on Tuesday that his group could not disperse because police blocked their path to the Nkaneng informal settlement.

Advocate Vuyani Ngalwana, representing the police, repeatedly asked Mzoxolo Magidiwana why his group did not disperse away from the police line, like many of the other protesters.

Magidiwana acknowledged that police aerial photographs showed no police blocking the main road to Nkaneng. He also acknowledged that the picture showed others walking unimpeded on that road.

Asked why his group did not use on the same path, Magidiwana said: "The question you are asking is self-explanatory: we wanted to walk that way but found it blocked."

Ngalwana said: "I thought we agreed, no one was blocking that path."

After Ngalwana repeated the question a number of times, even in Xhosa, he said: "I take it you are refusing to answer my question."

Magidiwana replied: "What do you want me to say?"

Looking again at the aerial photograph, Ngalwana asked why his group did not disperse like others visible in the picture.

"We were singing.... We did nothing to anyone, so we walked, not ran. We only wanted money... after that, the road was blocked, the only way we could run was blocked."

Magidiwana accused Ngalwana of lying when he said other protesters dispersed into the veld, and Magidiwana raised his voice in apparent frustration.

Commission chairman Ian Farlam warned him to behave himself.

"Otherwise we will be here, not to say until Doomsday, but much longer than expected."

The commission has already been granted an extension until the end of May.

Ngalwana asked why Magidiwana, in his written statement, had claimed that police were "fencing us in".

"You are not suggesting police were surrounding you with barbed wire, are you?"

After a long pause, Magidiwana said: "We were surrounded, because even behind us, at the back, there were police officers."

After the tea-break, he clarified: "I never said we were encircled by barbed wire".

Ngalwana contended that there were numerous routes Magidiwana's group could have chosen to get to Nkaneng, and that these led away from the police line.

After extensive discussion on Monday about which path Magidiwana's group took during the first approach to the police line, this point had still not been fully established by noon on Tuesday.

Magidiwana previously told the commission that the police repeatedly shot and beat him on August 16. 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 police Nyala vehicle.

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

On August 16, 34 striking mineworkers were shot dead and 78 were injured when the 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.

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