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Weapons were for self-defence - protester

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iol pic sa striking lonmin miner

REUTERS

(File photo) A protester licks his spear outside the mine.

Rustenburg - Protesting Lonmin mineworkers told police they were carrying weapons for self-defence, and not to attack anyone, video evidence revealed on Thursday.

Videos played to the Farlam commission of inquiry, sitting in Rustenburg, show a confrontation captured on August 13 between police officers and hundreds of protesters wielding sticks and an assortment of other weapons.

A senior policeman tells the group to surrender these before they can proceed to a hill to join their fellow protesters.

“We have a big problem; I ask you lay down your weapons now, otherwise I will not allow you to proceed,” the officer tells the crowd.

A man leading the protesters stands up from among his kneeling colleagues and tells the police they will not surrender their weapons, and that they will be used only for self-defence.

“We want you [police] to accompany us. We have no intention of attacking anyone. Our weapons are only for our self-defence,” the man says in Fanagalo, a mixture of Zulu, English and Afrikaans once commonly used among miners.

The group moves ahead as officers look on. Police later fire stun grenades at the marchers.

Lt-Col Victor Visser told the commission the grenades were used as a last resort as the group headed towards an informal settlement. He said teargas was used initially, but did not deter the men.

After stun grenades were used, the protesters charged at police, overpowered two officers and hacked and shot them to death, said Visser.

Police officers in a helicopter witnessed the attack. Another policeman was attacked and critically injured.

The protesters stole two-way radios, pistols, a shotgun and a rifle from the dead officers.

Visser told the commission, led by retired judge Ian Farlam, that officers came under attack and had to use live ammunition to save themselves.

The hearing continues.

Sapa


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