Begging miners ‘shot for fun’

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Recently released Lonmin miner Lungisile Lutshetu shows how he survived on the day of the Marikana slayings. The markings on the rocks show where the bodies of dead miners were found. Picture: Phill Magakoe

North West - “People were shot for fun while down on their knees with their hands up in the air and begging for their lives.” 

This was one of the statements by striking Lonmin workers, who said they considered themselves lucky to be alive after they were arrested on August 16.

A miner said the protesters were killed in cold blood by “trigger-happy police officers” on the day of the Marikana massacre.

The Lonmin employees interviewed by The Star said some of those shot had surrendered to the police.

The miners’ claims echo those made by Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer Greg Marinovich last week after he had spent a fortnight trying to understand what really happened at Marikana on August 16.

An interviewee he spoke to, and who he identified as “Themba”, said he believed strikers had been hiding on the koppie and policemen had gone in and killed them.

In the days after the shooting, Themba had visited friends at the nearby mine hospital, Marinovich wrote.

“Most people who are in hospital were shot at the back. The ones I saw in hospital had clear signs of being run over by the Nyalas,” he quoted Themba as saying.

Marinovich added: “It is becoming clear to this reporter that heavily armed police hunted down and killed the miners in cold blood.

“A minority were killed in the filmed event where police claim they acted in self-defence. The rest was murder on a massive scale.”

Lungisile Lutshetu was among those arrested on the day and released on bail on Monday.

He took a tour of the area around the koppie on Tuesday, a place where he had the “horrific experience of my life”.

He stared at the bright-green numbers on rocks and trees indicating spots where bodies lay after the shooting.

Lutshetu said he believed more people than reported were killed between the rocks.

“When everyone left the mountain towards the shacks where they live, I also joined those who went down the mountain at the back towards Marikana West, where we live.

“We didn’t walk far and saw people running back towards us because police had blocked their way, and suddenly shooting started on the other side of the koppie,” Lutshetu said.

“We ran back up the koppie, and there I found a hiding place between large rocks, but then police were already all over the place. Those in front of me were shot at close range and fell over me, and that’s how my life was spared.

“There was a Sotho man who I saw kneeling next to a big stone with his hands up. He begged for his life and apologised profusely for something he didn’t know about, but the heartless officers riddled him with automatic rifles, which pierced through his body.”

Lutshetu said he had seen at least 15 people being shot dead or left injured, “only for some of the injured to be shot again in the head later and finished off”.

“I remained still, with the dead and injured piling over and against me. Later, they realised I was still alive and they pulled me out, ordered me to the ground and with others. We were asked to slither on our stomachs towards a police Nyala,” he said.

“They screamed at a man who had been shot in the leg… to keep limping even after a bone fragment protruded through his leg. We spent about three hours lying on our stomachs. The unlucky ones who dared raise their heads were killed.”

Lutshetu said the police officers had “boasted about how many people they have shot and how they still wanted to kill more”.

“They were proud of what they were doing… My clothes were soaking in blood and they asked why I wasn’t dead, and all I could say was ‘sorry’, and I think my life was spared after paramedics arrived and asked them not to shoot the injured,” he said.

“I am still wondering what happened to a man, we came across while fleeing, who had been shot through the chest and was asking us to pick him up and run with him. The best we could do was take him and hide him between some rocks and leave him there with blood spewing through a large gash in his chest.”

It was Johannes Mashabela’s first day at the koppie on the day of the killings. He had joined Lonmin as a rock drill operator in July.

“There was no way to run with police walls formed all around us, and that’s when I joined others who ran into the open field. I suddenly saw people falling around me and realised they were being shot at,” Mashabela said.

“I dived to the ground in fear that I would be caught by a bullet, and spotted a Nyala driving towards me. I then stood up, but the Nyala was already by my side and I heard one of the officers screaming ‘shoot him’, and again I dived to the ground.”

While on the ground, he was kicked and his shoelaces were used to tie his hands behind his back, Mashabela said.

“They then dragged me by the collar and dumped me among the injured and dead who had been piled up. They continued dumping people over me,” he said.

“My clothes were awash with blood. I don’t know how I survived, and now I consider myself lucky to be alive and finding myself in police cells when others were killed for no reason.”

 On Tuesday, Lonmin said it wouldn’t fire any survivors of the shooting, but warned that the prolonged strike put 40 000 jobs at risk, reports Sapa-AFP. - The Star


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