Retired judge Ian Farlam. File photo: Oupa Mokoena

Pretoria - A police witness, only identified as “Mr X”, asked the Farlam Commission of Inquiry on Thursday to give him a break.

“There is a funeral at my home. As black people, our culture is different from whites. In my culture when there is a death we mourn the deceased,” he told the public hearings in Pretoria.

Mr X may not be named to protect his identity. He is testifying at the commission in Pretoria via video link from an undisclosed location.

“I am mentally exhausted, I need rest. May I please take a break?”

Commission chairman retired judge Ian Farlam adjourned the hearings.

Mr X made the request after 2pm, after cross-examination by head of evidence leaders Geoff Budlender.

“I want to put it to you that your claim that you were one of the five selected by protesters to represent them is false,” Budlender told him.

“You have made that false statement in order to exaggerate your own importance. You may have been a foot soldier but you want to present yourself as a general.”

Mr X claims he was part of a group of striking Lonmin mineworkers at Marikana, near Rustenburg, North West, who underwent traditional rituals, and participated in the killing of Lonmin security guards Hassan Fundi and Frans Mabelani on August 12, 2012.

He has detailed in an affidavit how flesh was cut from Fundi's face, how sangomas cut this into smaller pieces, mixed it with blood, and burnt it to ashes.

“We were instructed by the inyangas 1/8traditional healers 3/8 to stand in a line and the ashes were put in our mouth using a spoon which we licked and swallowed,” Mr X wrote in his affidavit.

Mr X narrates in the affidavit how he and other protesters attacked and killed two police officers on August 13, 2012. He said they robbed the officers of their cellphones and service firearms.

Budlender argued Mr X was not the person he claimed to be in photographs taken at Marikana.

The photographs were viewed on large screens at the commission's hearings.

“I am not an expert in faces but that face is very different from your face,” said Budlender, referring to the photo.

Mr X maintained it was him in the photograph.

Budlender said Mr X was neither in the photograph nor was he at the koppie (hill) where strikers gathered for meetings at Marikana, on August 13, 2012, as he had claimed.

The commission is investigating the deaths of 44 people during strike-related violence at Lonmin's platinum mining operations at Marikana.

Thirty-four people, mostly striking mineworkers, were shot dead in a clash with police, over 70 were wounded, and another 250

arrested on August 16, 2012. Police were apparently trying to disarm and disperse them.

In the preceding week, 10 people, including two policemen and the two security guards, were killed.