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A police armoured vehicle, commonly referred to as the Nyala or hippo, knocked down protesters near a hill in Marikana, Rustenburg, on August 16, the Farlam Commission heard on Tuesday.
Giving evidence before the Farlam commission, Siphethe Phatsha, a survivor of the Marikana shootings which left 34 people dead, said he ran to escape from the police vehicle.
“I was running towards higher ground. I was afraid of that hippo so I wanted to run away, but my injured toe was very painful,” he told the commission.
A lawyer representing the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union asked Phatsha to explain why he was afraid of the police vehicle.
“It was bumping into people running against it. The people it bumped into were falling down,” he said.
Phatsha was then asked by advocate Dumisa Ntsebeza, who represents the families of the dead mineworkers, to explain the role which was played by “the man wrapped in a green blanket”.
That man was Mgcineni Noki, affectionately known as Mambush, a leader of the protesting mine workers, who was shot dead when violence erupted on August 16. Mambush featured prominently in newspaper photographs and television footage in the build-up to the August 16 confrontation.
On Tuesday, Phatsha was shown a slideshow of the protesters, indicating other strikers who were also wearing green material. He told the commission he had “a difficulty with colours” as he had not been to school.
Phatsha told the commission he had been a member of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) since he came to Gauteng around 1982. He said he quit his membership of the union in December.
He said he did not receive any form of assistance from the NUM after he was injured.
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.
In August, President Jacob Zuma announced the establishment of the judicial commission of inquiry and tasked it with investigating the cause of the violence of August 16 and the preceding, strike-related events.
Earlier in February, City Press reported that Zuma had granted the commission a month’s extension following a request by its chairman, retired judge Ian Farlam.
The commission will now wrap up on Friday, May 31, and will have six weeks to submit its final report to Zuma.
Before granting the request, the commission had until the end of April to finish its public hearings and a month to submit its final report to Zuma. - Sapa