Pretoria - Protesting Lonmin mineworkers in Marikana, near Rustenburg, were illegally carrying dangerous weapons despite interventions by police, the Farlam Commission of Inquiry heard on Friday.
This emerged as Anthony Gotz, for the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union, was cross-examining police officer Brigadier Adriaan Calitz at the commission's public hearings in Pretoria.
He asked about strikers' claims that the weapons were for protection against members of the rival National Union of Mineworkers.
“When you commenced the negotiations with the strikers on August 14 (2012), were you aware of certain factors, for instance that they believed that two of their members had been shot dead?” asked Gotz.
“They had also told (North West deputy police commissioner William) Mpembe that they (wanted) protection.”
Calitz was the police operational commander in the intervention to end the miners' wage-related protest.
Gotz said during the strike the miners believed that their colleagues were killed when they marched to the NUM offices on August 11, 2012. The two were instead shot and injured.
Calitz said even if the miners believed their colleagues had been killed, carrying the weapons was illegal.
“We received information at our meetings that there were such allegations. We also knew that that was not the case,” he said.
“They did not give us the reasons for the weapons. We repeatedly told them that it was illegal and they should lay down their arms.”
Gotz said since police knew that the protesters' colleagues had not been killed during a march to the Lonmin offices on August 11, 2012, they could reduce the tension by telling the strikers the truth.
The commission, led by retired judge Ian Farlam, is probing the deaths of 44 people in Marikana. On August 16, 2012, 34 people, mostly striking miners, were shot dead and 78 people were wounded when the police fired on a group gathered at a hill near the mine. They were trying to disperse and disarm them.
In the preceding week, 10 people, including two policemen and two security guards, were killed in strike-related violence.