Union a possible instigator at Lonmin

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IOL marikana aug 31

REUTERS

A policeman gestures at some of the 34 dead miners after they were shot outside the Marikana mine. File photo: Siphiwe Sibeko/ Reuters

Rustenburg - The National Union of Mineworkers may have been an instigator in the violence at Lonmin's Marikana mine, the Farlam commission of inquiry heard on Wednesday afternoon.

“We are going to argue it is the turning point in the whole episode... when the strikers see NUM as being opposition, people who are responsible for the attack on them,” Ishmael Semenya, for the police, told NUM member and Lonmin employee, Saziso Gegeleza.

Gegeleza said: “It's possible that it really aggravated (them)”.

Semenya was referring to Gegeleza's testimony about the events of August 11, when striking workers tried to attack the NUM's office at the platinum mine, in the North West.

Gegeleza said confiscated weapons were handed out to union members to defend themselves after they heard a group of strikers was heading towards the office to burn it down.

“I was given a knobkerrie and a spear,” Gegeleza said.

He testified the group of strikers had sticks, knobkerries, pangas and spears.

“I had fear. I was afraid, but I wanted to protect my life as well as the offices of the NUM.”

He said that as the two groups were about to meet, gunshots were fired and the strikers retreated.

Semenya asked why they did not simply lock the office and leave before the strikers arrived.

“It never crossed my mind to lock the NUM office and let it be attacked.” He said it felt like they were being disrespected.

Semenya argued that the group of union members instead insisted on fighting and thereafter chased after the strikers.

“You were inviting the danger.”

Gegeleza denied this and said they needed to follow them to stop them from planning another attack.

Semenya asked whether this had not made the NUM members aggressors.

“I disagree, but anyone who was not present there could see it that way because that person did not see what happened,” Gegeleza said.

Semenya argued this was a turning point and from there the strikers saw the NUM as their enemies. He said they never gave strikers a chance to present possible demands and instead armed themselves and attacked them.

Gegeleza said it was possible the strikers were aggravated before August 11 by seeing NUM members driving miners to work the day before.

The commission was adjourned until Thursday when NUM president Senzeni Zokwana will testify.

The commission is probing the deaths of 44 people at Lonmin's Marikana mine in August 2012.

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

In the preceding week, 10 people, including two police officers and two security guards, were hacked to death. - Sapa


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