Marikana commission hears of heated exchange
The Marikana Commission of Inquiry has heard details of an explosive meeting with police, Lonmin executives and union officials who were trying to find a solution to end the mineworkers’ strike that culminated in the deaths of more than 40 people.
Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) president Joseph Mathunjwa took to the witness stand to begin his testimony before the Marikana Commission of Inquiry today.
In his testimony, Mathunjwa revealed that he did not know who called the strike by rock drill operators at Lonmin.
Mathunjwa said he believed there were “sinister forces” at work but did not elaborate.
He said on the weekend of August 11 he received an SMS from Barnard Mokwena, a Lonmin spokesperson, that read: “Hey broer, there are four people shot at Wonderkop, so therefore call a meeting with your members.”
The commission listened to a recording of a heated exchange in which Mathunjwa lashed out at Lonmin executives as using “apartheid style threats”.
The meeting was held two days before police opened fire and killed 34 people in Marikana on August 16.
It was facilitated by Mathunjwa and National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) president Senzeni Zokwana after they met for an interview at the SABC studios in Johannesburg that morning.
The meeting was attended by North West deputy provincial commissioner Major General William Mpembe, who is heard pleading with the parties to intervene to prevent further loss of life.
At least 10 people had died by then.
An enraged Mathunjwa is heard saying people should be prosecuted if they break the law, regardless of union affiliation.
On the recording, someone is heard saying if the workers do not disperse, the police would move in.
But Mathunjwa responds: “No, no … That is apartheid mentality! You cannot tell us we are in referee’s optional time and anytime the police will go and shoot!”
Earlier, Mathunjwa told the commission he believed the strike, which started on August 9, was organised by the workers themselves and Amcu never played any role in calling for the strike.
He said he wrote a letter to Lonmin in July, after he was informed that rock drill operators were planning to embark on a strike that was not sanctioned by any union.
Mathunjwa said he requested Lonmin not to accede to the demands, advising that it would set a bad precedent.
The inquiry continues.