Top cop quizzed on Marikana eventsComment on this story
Pretoria - North West police chief Lt-Gen Zukiswa Mbombo was quizzed at the Farlam Commission of Inquiry on Thursday on conversations with Amcu leader Joseph Mathunjwa before the Marikana shooting.
Inquiry chairman, retired judge Ian Farlam, asked Mbombo to explain why she had not helped Mathunjwa when she realised his negotiations with the miners hit a snag on August 16.
Mathunjwa is leader of the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union, which represented some of the miners who were on a wage strike at Lonmin's platinum mine in Marikana, North West, at the time.
“He (Mathunjwa) was telling you that he wasn't going to the koppie to tell the protesters to lay down their arms because there was no commitment to continue negotiating from Lonmin,” Farlam said.
“You said to him your concern was his commitment to find a peaceful solution... If it was important to you that he should go to the koppie, why did you not say to him 'let's go to Lonmin together or I will go talk to Lonmin'?”
Mbombo said at the time she had not known Mathunjwa's pledge to negotiate with the protesters was based on the condition that Lonmin remained committed to bargaining for the miners' wages.
“If he had told me that he had to talk to Lonmin first, I would not have forced him to go to the koppie. At that time, I was convinced that he was the person who would be able to negotiate with these people,” she said.
Dali Mpofu, for the Marikana mineworkers wounded and arrested in the 2012 clash with police, said Mbombo was telling “an untruth”.
In 2012, Mathunjwa testified at the commission that the protesting mineworkers had mandated him to speak to Lonmin management and return to the hill near Nkaneng informal settlement on the morning of August 16, 2012.
The protesters had turned away representatives of the National Union of Mineworkers.
On August 16, Mathunjwa said he was late for a scheduled 8am meeting with Lonmin as he had to drive from Mpumalanga, he told the commission.
“When I arrived at the venue there was a large presence of NUM supporters wearing T-shirts. I was told there was a South African Police Service media briefing.”
He told the commission that Jomo Kwadi, a Lonmin executive, later told him he did not have good news and that Lonmin management had resolved not to honour a commitment made during its meeting on August 15.
“He (Kwadi) was referring to the commitment made by management that once workers leave violence and return to work, the management would resolve their issues,” said Mr Mathunjwa.
“I was agitated. They were reneging on their commitment. I had already communicated that to the workers. I felt we were betrayed as a union,” he said.
Later, the commission heard that Lonmin officials brought a cellphone to Mathunjwa.
“The person on the phone did not introduce herself. She was just rude and her voice was harsh. That person was North West provincial commissioner Lt-Gen Zukiswa Mbombo,” said Mathunjwa.
“She kept saying I had made a commitment to return to the koppie by 9am. I told her I had been delayed by the Lonmin management who had somersaulted from their commitment. She said she doesn't care,” he said.
The commission 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 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.
President Jacob Zuma established the inquiry shortly after the shootings.
The hearings resume on Friday.