Marikana phone call haunts Bishop
Bishop Jo Seoka has told the Marikana commission of inquiry that he’s still haunted by a cellphone call he received while driving away from Lonmin’s premises in Marikana shortly before police shot and killed 34 mine workers on August 16.
Seoka said he’d visited the striking workers, who were gathered on a koppie at around lunchtime on the 16th, after he had read media reports of the ongoing strike.
He said he was met by a delegation of about eight workers, and one of the men, who was wearing a green blanket and appeared to be their leader, asked him to provide them with food and water and to ask Lonmin management to come address them.
Seoka said he’d gone to Lonmin, where he was allegedly told by North West Provincial police commissioner, Lieutenant-General Zukiswa Mbombo, that he could negotiate whatever he wanted to negotiate with management, but her main concern was safety.
“Security is not negotiable,” Mbombo allegedly told Seoka.
He said a three-man Lonmin delegation told him they would not address the workers because they were criminals.
Seoka, who was accompanied by SACC general secretary Mautji Pataki, said they decided to leave after Mokwena told them the area where the workers were gathered was now a security area and was in the hands of the police.
He said as they were driving, he received a call. He heard noises and gunfire in the background.
Then the voice on the other end of the line said to him: “Bishop, where are you, we are being killed by the police!”
He said the line went dead and that’s when he heard news reports on the radio saying police were shooting and killing the mine workers.
Seoka said although he was not certain the call did indeed come from the man in the green blanket, later identified as Mgcineni Noki, he was troubled by the fact that he never fulfilled his promise to let the workers know the outcome of his efforts to get management to speak to them.
Earlier, the commission heard evidence that police handcuffed miners as they lay bleeding from gunshot injuries.
The commission continues.