The violence at Lonmin's platinum mine in Marikana occurred because mine bosses did not care, the Farlam Commission of Inquiry heard on Monday.
“The cause of all that happened there is because of a lack of care from Lonmin and them calling us criminals,” mineworker Xolani Nzuza, 27, told the inquiry's public hearings in Pretoria.
He was one of the leaders in the strike-related unrest at the mine which resulted in the deaths of 44 people in August 2012.
“Had they not called us criminals, this would have not happened.”
Nzuza said they were told Lonmin had told police and Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union leader Joseph Mathunjwa that they were “faceless criminals”.
Asked what would have happened had Lonmin addressed them, Nzuza said: “If Lonmin had come to speak to us, we would have gone back to work.”
Nzuza was being led in delivering his evidence-in-chief by Dali Mpofu, for the miners arrested and injured during the unrest.
The commission, sitting in Centurion, was investigating the deaths of 44 people during the strike. 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 disperse them.
In the preceding week 10 people, including two policemen and two Lonmin security guards, were killed.
Earlier, the court heard there were affidavits from three witnesses who claimed police shot them as they tried to surrender.
Mpofu said the statements would corroborate the evidence of Shadrack Zandisile Mtshamba. The Lonmin miner previously testified that police shot some miners who had been hiding and had decided to give themselves up.
“There was sound of gunfire from all sides. Some bullets sounded as if they are so near us. One man said we should surrender. He raised his arms,” Mtshamba told the commission earlier this month.
“He was shot in the right arm and he bent down. He raised his hands and said we should surrender. He was shot again in the stomach. The third bullet shot his leg and he fell down.”
Ishmael Semenya, for the police, on Monday disputed the affidavits.
He argued whether the three miners would be called to testify against the police at the commission.
Mpofu said the witnesses could be interviewed by evidence leaders and their injuries examined.
Semenya argued that one witness's affidavit contradicted Mtshamba's evidence. Mtshamba had testified that one of those shot in his presence was hit in the left arm. According to the man's affidavit however he was shot in the right arm.
Mpofu argued the affidavits were relevant and admissible.
Commission chairman, retired judge Ian Farlam, said the question was whether police intentionally shot at the miners.
“Could they see them? Did they know they were firing at people who were surrendering?” Farlam asked, adding that some of the police were shooting from a distance.
“The statements would not prove that the people were intentionally shot at,” said Farlam.
“There is a statement from one witness who says shots were fired at him from around five metres,” Mpofu said.
“He suggests that this was done deliberately.”
Farlam ruled that the evidence leader should interview the three miners prior to their statements being entered as evidence. - Sapa