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‘Why was he killed while running away?’

Two women, one of them a police officer carry wreath to a car of family members and relatives of miners who were killed last week by police officers during a protest outside the Doves mortuary in Rusternburg yesterday. Picture:Paballo Thekiso

Two women, one of them a police officer carry wreath to a car of family members and relatives of miners who were killed last week by police officers during a protest outside the Doves mortuary in Rusternburg yesterday. Picture:Paballo Thekiso

Published Aug 25, 2012

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Rustenburg - Thembinkosi Gwelani was in the wrong place at the wrong time and he paid with his life – a bullet went into the back of his head and out through his forehead.

Now the 27-year-old’s lifeless body lies in the Rustenburg morgue after last week’s tragedy.

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 Gwelani’s brother, Bongani – a striking Lonmin mine worker – who had encouraged him to come from Lusikisiki eight months ago, is unable to transport his body home because he hasn’t been paid.

Gwelani is one of 34 people killed and 78 wounded. Only one of the people killed during the violence remains unidentified.

Home Affairs Deputy Minister Fatima Chohan said the department had assisted in the identification of five of the six miners who had not been identified. “We are working around the clock to ensure we can help identify the last unidentified miner,” she said.

 “Of the deceased miners, there were five foreign nationals – four from Lesotho and one from Swaziland. We have so far issued 30 death certificates to bereaved families, most of whom originate from the Eastern Cape.”

When Gwelani was killed, he was a curious onlooker.

Bongani said when his brother was shot he had been trying to flee from the crowd that clashed with the police.

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“My brother was watching what was happening on the hilltop but when the police came armed he tried to run. Then when the gunfire rang out he was hit by a shot from a helicopter in the back of the head.”

Bongani claimed this was an indication the police may have killed people who were fleeing from the scene because they wanted them dead.

And Bongani is not alone. At the memorial service this week a similar accusation was levelled against the police by a striking mineworkers’ leader Xolani Nzuza. He said the bodies had been run over by a police Nyala.

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Nzuza told mourners that one miner was shot and kicked on the ground with one officer allegedly shouting, “this dog is not dead, finish him”. The police drove over a dying man with their hippo [Nyala] when they realised he wasn’t dead,” he claimed.

Bongani said Gwelani’s face was covered in blood, gushing out of the hole in his forehead where the bullet exited.

“We couldn’t recognise him when we went to see him at the morgue; he was bleeding from his nose, ears and eyes. I only saw it was him because I know him.”

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 Gwelani’s uncle described him as a humble young man who had left home with high hopes of finding employment to support his family.

“Two months ago he told us that he wanted to buy his mother a house if he eventually found a job in Lonmin. He was a determined young man who put his family before anything else. We are saddened that he had to die in this way but we want the truth about why he was killed while running away.”

Weekend Argus

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