Pretoria - Former police minister Nathi Mthethwa denied on Monday he was under political pressure to intervene in the deadly mining strike at Marikana in Rustenburg two years ago.
Mthethwa, now the minister of arts and culture, was led in submitting evidence before the Farlam Commission of Inquiry in Pretoria by Lindi Nkosi-Thomas, for the police.
“Minister, did you or did you not bring undue political influence on the (police) operational team on how they should conduct themselves during the tragedy?” Nkosi-Thomas asked.
Mthethwa said he did not.
“I didn't, because that is not how I understand my mandate. The task of the minister is to ensure that policy is being implemented,” he said.
“There would be no need for any pressure, except for oversight over police. People who do the job are asked to do the job.”
Nkosi-Thomas asked if any person had applied political pressure on Mthethwa to act on the Marikana strike.
Mthethwa said no one had put him under pressure.
Nkosi-Thomas then moved to e-mail correspondence penned by people including then Lonmin chairman Roger Phillimore and Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, as a Lonmin shareholder.
Mthethwa said he was not party to any of the e-mail conversations.
“The first point (from the e-mails) is that a cabinet meeting was to be held on August 15, 2012 at which you and Minister (Susan) Shabangu would be in attendance. At that meeting, Minister Shabangu was to brief the president (Jacob Zuma) and get you to act in a pointed way,” said Nkosi-Thomas.
“The other thing that emerges from the e-mails is the characterisation of what was happening in Marikana. It had ceased to be a labour unrest situation and people had lost their lives.”
Mthethwa said that on August 15, 2012, he was doing ministerial work in KwaZulu-Natal and did not attend a cabinet meeting. He said there was no cabinet meeting on that day.
He said no one had told him to act “in a pointed way” but some people were calling him, raising concern about what was happening at Marikana.
“Firstly, I spoke to the deputy president now, Mr Ramaphosa, who had called and left a message. He explained to me that the situation in Marikana was bad. He said he was concerned because people were dying and property was being damaged.
“He said as far as he could see there were no adequate police on the ground.
“A similar message had been left by Mr (Senzeni) Zokwana as president of the National Union of Mineworkers,” said Mthethwa.
He said he had the telephone calls with Ramaphosa and Zokwana on August 12, 2012.
“I immediately contacted the (North West) provincial commissioner of police to ascertain the veracity of what I heard from the two gentlemen.
“The provincial commissioner confirmed that there was such a thing. I then wanted to understand what the police management was doing to deal with the situation, to prevent any damage,” said Mthethwa.
Mthethwa was police minister when 34 people, mostly striking Lonmin mineworkers, were shot dead in a clash with police on August 16, 2012.
More than 70 were wounded, and another 250 arrested at the company's platinum mining operations in Marikana, near Rustenburg.
In the preceding week, 10 people, including two policemen and the two security guards, were killed.
The commission is investigating the 44 deaths during the strike-related violence.
Ramaphosa is set to testify at the inquiry later this month. - Sapa