Rustenburg - A striking miner wounded at Marikana did not lay down his weapons because this did not occur to him at the time, the Farlam Commission of Inquiry heard on Thursday.
Ishmael Semenya, for the police, put it to Siphete Phatsha that he could have disarmed himself once police Nyalas (armoured vehicles) started deploying barbed wire at the hill where the strikers had assembled.
Phatsha said: “It did not occur to me to do that.”
He denied Semenya's suggestion that he had not disarmed because he wanted to use his weapons. He said he could not throw them away.
“It was illegal, yes, but I had them.”
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 were injured when the 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.
Questioning Phatsha on Thursday, Semenya put it to him: “When they (the police) deployed the wire, knowing you had a dangerous weapon, illegal in this country, (and) police having asked you to disarm, you had an opportunity to put it down.”
Phatsha said he did not hear anyone asking the protesters to lay down their weapons. “I had no intention to hurt anybody.”
He objected to being asked about a speech made by one of the miners' leaders, Mgcineni Noki, alias “Mumbush”, through a loudhailer.
According to Semenya, Noki, who was killed later that day, told the police: “We will kill one another today.”
Semenya asked Phatsha whether he considered this a declaration of war.
Phatsha said he had not heard this.
“He (Noki) is the person who should answer that question, not me.... I don't think that should be put to me,” he said.
Earlier, an error in Phatsha's written statement to the commission was revealed.
The statement contained a paragraph that Phatsha attended a march to the National Union of Mineworkers' (NUM) mine offices on August 11.
However, in his testimony Phatsha said he had arrived late, and while the protesters were returning from the offices.
Lonmin's representative Terry Motau said: “If I accept that what you are saying is correct, then it follows that paragraph four 1/8of the written statement 3/8 must be incorrect”.
Phatsha, who is illiterate but able to sign his name, agreed.
Motau said it was the responsibility of the legal team representing Phatsha and other wounded miners to prepare and explain the contents of their statements to them. Motau said he would deal with this issue at a later stage.
During cross-examination, Phatsha said he and his fellow rock drill operators (RDOs) at the mine did not want to involve unions in their negotiations for higher wages.
This was because the RDOs belonged to various unions, and they wanted to negotiate only for themselves.
Phatsha denied that there was any other reason that the RDOs did not want to involve unions.
Motau also asked for his comment on NUM president Senzeni Zokwana's testimony that he received a hostile reception when he arrived at the big hill to address the protesters.
Zokwana claimed the protesters sang a song which translated as:
“We hate NUM. How will we kill NUM? We hate Zokwana. How will we kill Zokwana?”
Phatsha said he had “never heard such a thing”, despite being at the hill that day.
There was no water at the Rustenburg Civic Centre for a second day on Thursday because of a municipal water problem. Toilets could not be flushed and people were unable to wash their hands.
Commission spokesman Tshepo Mahlangu said a temporary solution would be sought if the water supply was not restored by Friday, when the commission resumes. - Sapa