Rustenburg - Naked protesting Lonmin mineworkers queued to be sprinkled with muti in rituals purported to make them invincible, a police officer told the Farlam commission in Rustenburg, North West, on Thursday.
“At 15:23 it was reported that the protesters had imported an inyanga (herbalist) or sangoma (traditional healer) to perform rituals that would ensure them victory in a confrontation with opponents,” Lt-Col Victor Visser said.
“The men gathered at the koppie (hill), carrying pangas, spears, and knobkerries, and believed the inyanga would sprinkle them with muti (traditional medicine) to make them brave.”
The commission is investigating the circumstances of the deaths of 34 miners shot by the police near Lonmin's mine in Marikana on August 16.
Visser gave detailed evidence, supported by video footage and photographs. Aerial photographs of two queues of naked men were shown to the commission.
“These rituals were observed by members of the police who were in a chopper. The bodies were wiped down (and sprinkled) with a substance,” he said.
A large contingent of police vehicles headed to the hill as part of a six-point plan drafted earlier. The plan was aimed to disarm the protesters.
“Police got there when the ritual was ending. We managed to capture the last part of the ritual on video. As soon as the police arrived, the people started to get dressed,” said Visser.
“You can clearly see from the video a protester (kneeling down) urinating in the direction of the (arriving) police.”
In the video, a man in a red shirt stands in the middle of a group of protesters and sprinkles them with a liquid.
Earlier, a video was shown of a confrontation between the police and the protesters on August 13. In it, a senior policeman tells the group to surrender their weapons before they can proceed to a hill to join their fellow protesters.
“We have a big problem; I ask you lay (to) down your weapons now, otherwise I will not allow you to proceed,” he 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 use them 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, the pidgin based on Zulu, English and Afrikaans which was once commonly used among miners.
The group moves forward as officers look on. Police later fire stun grenades at the marchers. Visser said the protesters then charged the police, overpowered two officers and hacked and shot them to death.
Police officers in a helicopter witnessed the attack. Another policeman was attacked and critically wounded. 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