Lonmin guard ‘insisted on stopping strikers’

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Pingla Hemraj INDEPENDENT NEWSPAPERS Commissioner Pingla Hemraj at the inquiry's hearings in Pretoria. File picture: Dumisani Sibeko

Pretoria - A senior Lonmin guard insisted that his team block a crowd of more than 1 000 protesting Marikana miners, the Farlam Commission of Inquiry heard on Friday.

Mogomotsi Masibi, a Lonmin security guard, testified in Pretoria that his superior Frans Mabelani said on August 12, 2012, that the protesters had to be “engaged”.

He was being questioned by commissioner Pingla Hemraj at the inquiry's hearings in Pretoria.

“In your statement to the commission, you said Mr Mabelani insisted that you have to try and stop the (protesters) gathering. Do you know if he had received specific instruction from anyone above?” Hemraj asked.

Masibi said he was not sure.

“We disagreed with Mr Mabelani's instruction, but he insisted that we had to stop the strikers,” said Masibi.

Mabelani and another senior security guard, Hassan Fundi, were killed during a confrontation with the strikers on August 12. In that week, eight other people - two policemen and mineworkers - were killed in unrest related to a strike.

Under cross-examination by police lawyer Ishmael Semenya, Masibi said the protesters they monitored in August 2012 were different.

“This crowd seemed different. Their ranks seemed closer than in my previous experiences. They reacted differently than in previous experience.

“They seemed more organised. They acted in unison, almost as if they were trained or coached as to what to do. Their movements were precisely deliberate, almost militant,” said Masibi.

Semenya said Masibi's description of the crowd was similar to that of the police's operational commander at Marikana, Brigadier Adriaan Calitz.

On Thursday, Masibi said other security guards also did not agree with Mabelani's instruction, but that he prevailed. The protesters approached the guards in a crouching position.

Another guard Julius Motlogelwa walked towards the protesters waving his hands and asking to speak to them.

“The strikers did not listen. They started clashing weapons, signalling that we should move out of the way. Motlogelwa turned and went to the car,” said Masibi.

“A rubber bullet shot was fired towards the strikers. I joined in and fired seven rubber bullets. The protesters did not retreat. My bullets were finished and my colleagues' ammunition was also finished.”

He said the guards ran to their cars, the protesters at their heels. Masibi passed the car Mabelani and Fundi were in. He ran towards a security van leaving the scene.

“I reloaded and fired a further seven rounds from the van. The strikers proceeded to surround Mabelani and Fundi's car. I could not see what was happening. The van I was in was driving off,” Masibi said on Thursday.

Masibi and other guards saw that the cars they had left were torched.

The guards gathered near a mine hospital, with security superintendent Dewald Louw.

“We saw smoke coming from the vehicle where Mr Mabelani and Fundi were in. It was not safe for us to go there. The strikers then started leaving, heading to a nearby taxi rank,” Masibi said.

Thirty-four people, mostly striking mineworkers, were shot dead in a clash with police, more than 70 were wounded, and another 250 were arrested on August 16, 2012. Police were apparently trying to disarm and disperse them.

The commission, which is led by retired judge Ian Farlam, is probing these deaths, and the 10 deaths in the week of August 12. - Sapa



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