Lonmin mine's August 16 decision to renege on agreements was an act of provocation, Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) president Joseph Mathunjwa said in Rustenburg on Monday.
Mathunjwa was being cross-examined at the Farlam Commission by advocate Karel Tip SC, representing the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM).
Tip asked Mathunjwa why he had not “explicitly” told armed, striking mineworkers to leave the hill where they had gathered and return to work.
“You are talking about an environment which is not my constituency,” Mathunjwa replied.
“It (the protest) was something which happened outside the labour structures. I wouldn’t go there and say to the workers, 'stand up and go'.”
Mathunjwa said he was not in control of the situation at the hill.
He said mine management had reneged on a commitment, made on August 15, to address the workers' grievances if they disarmed and returned to work.
“I didn’t even know whether I was safe or not. Remember, I had (previously) told the workers that certain things were going to happen tomorrow, now I had to tell them management was no longer there.
“After my addresses to the workers on August 16, some left the koppie (hill). I was facing a situation that is not just instigation, I was facing provocation. If the company had not reneged on its promises, the workers would have dispersed,” he said.
Tip said his remarks to workers showed little intention of encouraging them to disarm and disperse.
“You said to these workers, who were in an angry mood, 'there are some leaders who enjoy that there should be bloodshed'. Is that statement meant to encourage the protesters to lay down their weapons?” Tip asked.
“Statements of that kind, unfortunately there are more of them in your address, don’t they increase the sense of being aggrieved?”
Mathunjwa replied: “It’s not true. If I was saying to them 'don’t move from this mountain until R12,500 is in your pockets', then I would agree with you. Here I was talking of avoiding a massacre which later happened.
“If you look at my message holistically, I was saying to them leave (the hill), there is a day tomorrow to address your concerns. This was not a normal situation.”
Tip said Mathunjwa’s address had done nothing to defuse the volatile situation.
Mathunjwa responded: “That is not correct. If it wasn’t for that address, maybe more than 34 would have been mowed down on that day. That was the best I could do as a mortal man.
“You should appreciate that this country has more that 48 million people, academics and all kinds of people. Today that massacre has to be put to one person, to say Joseph Mathunjwa you have failed. Poor Joseph Mathunjwa has to be crucified.”
Police opened fire, killing 34 striking workers and wounding 78 while trying to disperse a group gathered on a hill near Lonmin's platinum mine in Marikana on August 16.
The three-member Farlam Commission, chaired by retired judge Ian Farlam, was established by President Jacob Zuma to probe into the violence and the deaths of 44 people in wage-related protests.
In August, Zuma said the commission would have four months to complete its work, and would have to submit its final report a month later. - Sapa