Pretoria - White employees at Lonmin mine got preferential treatment at the expense of their black counterparts, the Farlam Commission of Inquiry heard on Monday.
“There is still segregation in the mines based on race. I am an RDO (rockdrill operator) but there is no single white person who works as an RDO,” Shadrack Zandisile Mtshamba told the commission in Pretoria.
“All white people are given positions like mine captains. Many white people joined the mine while we worked at Lonmin but they now have better positions.”
He said the August 2012 protest at Marikana was inspired by a robust desire among black employees to be on par with their white counterparts.
“Lonmin should have spoken to workers instead of calling the police. They called the police to come and shoot the protesters. Now Lonmin should be giving something to the widows who lost loved ones,” said Mtshamba.
The commission, chaired by retired judge Ian Farlam, is investigating the deaths of 44 people during strike-related violence at Lonmin's platinum mining operations at Marikana in August 2012.
Thirty-four people, mostly striking mineworkers, were shot dead in a clash with police, over 70 were wounded, and over 200 were arrested on August 16, 2012. Police were apparently trying to disarm and disperse them.
In the preceding week, 10 people, including two policemen and two Lonmin security guards, were killed.
Mtshamba was among the hundreds of arrested miners. The men faced charges including murder and attempted murder of 34 of their colleagues on August 16. Following a public outcry the charges were provisionally withdrawn in September 2012.
Mtshamba said the detained miners were mistreated in police cells.
“Some people were taken to police cells while they were bleeding and their bodies were swollen. We were mistreated a lot. We were assaulted. We were just locked up.
“If our lawyers had not negotiated for us, we would have been in prison even now because those cases are still on. The police are walking freely, enjoying their lives,” he said.
He insisted the miners did not kill their colleagues.
“We had been gathering at the koppie for a long time without killing each other. Why would we kill our colleagues?”
Without specifying, Mtshamba said even though charges like murder had been provisionally withdrawn, the miners were scheduled to be in court on Wednesday on charges related to the August 16, 2012, incidents. - Sapa