Marikana: ‘We won’t survive this’
The Marikana commission of inquiry has heard that mine workers allegedly told police they were not going to come out of the area where they had gathered in August alive.
Police said during a presentation before the commission today that they had tried to negotiate with the miners in a bid to get them to disperse, but they had refused to do so.
Lieutenant Colonel Duncan Scott told the commission that the miners had refused to disarm and disperse.
A man who has since been identified as Mgcineni Noki, a workers’ leader dubbed the man in the green blanket, allegedly told police “these hippos will not leave this place and you will all die today”.
Noki is alleged to have further told a police officer shortly before the shooting that left 34 dead: “We can sign a paper so the world can see how we kill one another today.”
Scott, who started his presentation yesterday, has painted a picture of police’s attempts to disperse the strikers peacefully.
He said the police had held a meeting with Amcu president Joseph Mathunjwa on Thursday morning, August 16, in a bid to get the workers to disperse peacefully.
After the meeting, Mathunjwa went to address the workers at the koppie, saying he was trying to get Lonmin management to address them.
He returned a second time, telling the workers he had not succeeded in getting management to come to them, and that they should disperse to avoid “the planned bloodbath”.
Workers are seen in a video, saying over a loudhailer, that they would leave the koppie only if their demands for a R12 500 wage were met, but they were prepared to die on the koppie.
Scott said when it was clear the plan to get the workers to disarm and disperse peacefully had failed, police moved into a tactical phase which included the application of barbed-wire fencing, which a group of the armed protesters tried to breach on several occasions.
He said the police had used tear gas, water cannons and rubber bullets in a bid to disperse the armed group of miners that was advancing towards the police. When this had failed, he said, the police tactical reaction team fired live ammunition, first on the ground, to scare off the workers.
He said this also didn’t seem to deter the workers, who continued charging at the police, who eventually fired at them with live rounds.
One of the family members of the deceased protesters broke down when police showed cellphone video footage.
The short video shows police crouching behind rocks, apparently fearing they were being fired at by workers hiding among rocks and trees on a koppie.
The commission also saw footage reportedly taken by a police officer on his cellphone.
A member of the public seated in the gallery broke down when the video showed a man lying in the grass after he’d been shot, allegedly while trying to attack police with a spear.
The commission continues.