Miner denies vow of secrecy on koppie

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marikana nov 9 AP File photo: A picture taken from a police video shows striking miners lining up at a koppie near Marikana.

Rustenburg - A miner wounded during conflict at Marikana last year has denied that he and his fellow protesters were sworn to secrecy about events there, the Farlam Commission heard on Friday.

Siphete Phatsha was being cross-examined by evidence leader Mbuyiseli Madlanga about his visits to the koppie (hill) where protesting miners had gathered in the days leading up to August 16, when 34 striking miners were killed in a confrontation with police.

Phatsha said that on August 12 he went to the koppie, but only stayed a few minutes because he felt ill.

He could not name any of the 10 or 20 people he saw there and said he spoke to no-one.

He was not told there were traditional doctors on the hill, and could give no reason for going there except “there were other workers who were there”.

Despite many questions being put to him, Phatsha appeared unable or unwilling to answer.

Madlanga asked: “No-one said to you or others that what is said on the mountain must not be repeated elsewhere?”

Phatsha denied that he had ever been told that, and said there was no reason why he would not tell them what had happened on the koppie.

He was told that a group of strikers went to K3 shaft on August 13, but was not told that two police officers were killed that day.

Madlanga asked: “This person who told you strikers went to K3 shaft, are you going to tell us his name.”

“No,” Phatsha replied.

The commission is holding hearings in Rustenburg, North West, as part of its inquiry into the deaths of 44 people during an unprotected strike at Lonmin Platinum's mine in Marikana last year.

On August 16, 34 striking mineworkers were shot dead and 78 injured when police opened fire while trying to disperse a group which had gathered on a koppie near the mine.

Ten people, including two police officers and two security guards, were killed near the mine in the preceding week.

Phatsha was also asked about a gathering of naked men on the koppie on August 14, and denied he was one of them.

Police witnesses previously described the gathering as an apparent muti ritual.

Phatsha said he assumed the men, who he saw on the day, were washing after sleeping.

Asked whether it was usual for men to wash in this way, all together, after 4pm, Phatsha said: “Any person decides when to wash... I would not know what people's habits are.”

His response was greeted with laughter from the public.

Phatsha said he had not believed Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) president Joseph Mthunjwa's warning that protesters should leave the koppie because there would be bloodshed.

He maintained that the strikers expected mine management to come and address their concerns.

Commission chairman retired judge Ian Farlam announced that due to water supply problems, which prevented the proper functioning of the venue's sanitation facilities, the commission would adjourn at lunchtime.

The problem had been caused by an explosion at a sub-station, which had resulted in insufficient water reaching the municipal reservoir.

The commission would resume on Monday at 10am to assess whether its work could continue at the Rustenburg Civic Centre.

During the morning session, Phatsha said fear of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) had prompted him to join another union Ä the rival Amcu in December last year Ä after 30 years as a NUM member.

“I became an Amcu member because I was assaulted, beaten up by NUM,” he said.

Asked by Farlam if he, personally, was beaten up, Phatsha clarified that “people like me were assaulted”.

Last week, Lonmin miner Vusimuzi Mandla Mabuyakhulu testified that he was shot and assaulted, allegedly by NUM members, on August 11 during a march to the mine's NUM offices.

Asked why he chose Amcu, Phatsha said: “If you have been beaten up by your father at home, you are able to leave him by building your own hut”.

Farlam said that joining another union was more like “going to someone else's hut”.

Phatsha responded this was “because I wanted protection”. - Sapa


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