Rustenburg - The conduct of miners believed to be affiliated to the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) took centre stage at the Farlam Commission of Inquiry on Thursday.
Lonmin miner Vusimuzi Mandla Mabuyakhulu, speaking through an interpreter, told the commission he feared for his life and was scared to go home after being told NUM members were looking for him.
On Thursday morning, Mabuyakhulu told the commission he had not been sleeping at his house.
Commission chairman judge Ian Farlam said no witness should be intimidated. If needed, Mabuyakhulu would be provided with witness protection.
Karel Tip, for the NUM, said it was opposed to any “sort of unlawful intimidation”.
“No event of this kind would have been sponsored by any structure of the NUM,” he said.
The commission heard that Mabuyakhulu was shot, assaulted and left to die by men associated with the NUM on August 11.
He is employed at Lonmin Platinum's Karee mine, where rockdrill operators went on strike in demand of a R12,500 a month wage last year.
“We need the money. The work we do is extremely difficult,” he said.
The commission heard that in August, rockdrill operators decided that no union could represent them when speaking to mine management about wage increases.
He said one of their reasons was because “it had become clear that NUM indicated that it would not be able to discuss wages for rock drill operators”.
On August 10, five representatives went to speak to mine management, which informed them that the NUM had told the mine not to speak to striking workers.
The workers then agreed they would go to the NUM's offices for clarity.
On the morning of August 11, a group of about 3000 striking workers gathered at the Wonderkop Stadium.
They were told people had been shot by NUM members, and that miners had been accosted at a bus station and forced, at gunpoint, to return to work.
He said that as the group walked to the offices it came across a group of NUM members singing songs. They heard two gunshots and started running.
Mabuyakhulu was shot in the back.
Recalling the shooting, he said: “No one was prepared to help another man; it was difficult, because we were all running away.... NUM members were following from behind and found me lying on the road.”
When the men, dressed in NUM attire, asked him where he worked, Mabuyakhulu said he lied to save his life.
He told the commission one of the men accused him of lying, and of being a member of the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu).
“Then one man appeared from the side and said 'let's finish him up',” he said.
Mabuyakhulu said a man on his left had a spear and repeatedly hit him with the handle, until it broke. Another man in white overalls and a NUM T-shirt stood in front of him with a butcher's knife.
“I felt a blow on the back of my head and lost consciousness. After they left me, I came to and I tried to crawl away...”
The commission heard that Mabuyakhulu was unable to say which day he regained consciousness, and was not aware which hospital he was taken to for treatment.
“It's with the help of the Almighty that I survived. Apparently my time had not come as yet,” he said.
A short video of a group of men walking with sticks, metal objects and pangas was shown to the commission.
“Those are the men that attacked me,” Mabuyakhulu said, pointing to the television screen in front of him.
He told the commission that a statement made in his name on August 17 was not completely correct, and that the signature was not his.
He asked show the commission his injuries, explaining that although the mine had declared him fit to go underground, he felt he was unable to efficiently do his work.
He told the commission that Amcu could not negotiate wages, because it was not a “recognised union”.
The commission is probing the deaths of 44 people during an unprotected strike at Lonmin Platinum's mine in Marikana.
On August 16, 34 striking mineworkers were shot dead and 78 were injured when police opened fire while trying to disperse a group which had gathered on a hill near the mine.
Ten people, including two police officers and two security guards, were killed near the mine in the preceding week.
The commission resumes on Friday morning with the cross-examination of Mabuyakhulu. - Sapa