Debate over Marikana weapons


iol pic sa striking lonmin miner

Rustenburg -

The purpose of the weapons striking miners wielded before the deadly August 16 shooting in Marikana was debated at the Farlam Commission, in Rustenburg, on Tuesday.

Dumisa Ntsebeza SC, for the families of 34 workers shot dead, was cross-examining Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) president Joseph Mathunjwa.

Ntsebeza said the families he represented believed the SA Police Service and Lonmin mine management were responsible for the Marikana shooting.

He asked Mathunjwa: “Is it your evidence that if people are armed with assegais and pangas, it does not necessarily make them a violent people?”

Mathunjwa responded: “That is correct.”

Ntsebeza asked Mathunjwa why he was “unperturbed” by the crowd of armed protesters and their singing and clashing of weapons.

Mathunjwa said: “It is because of where I am coming from. In my culture, it is December now and we will be going back home where I will take my sharpened stick.

“As we sing and dance, we do the clashing of the weapons every time.”

Ntsebeza said that in the Xhosa culture, people attended initiation ceremonies armed to the teeth, but that nothing happened. Sometimes there were stick fights in which people were injured.

Mathunjwa agreed.

Ntsebeza then referred to a song which was led by Amcu national organiser Dumisani Nkalitshana, in Mathunjwa’s presence, during a visit to a hill where workers had gathered on August 16.

The lyrics say: “le NUM sizoyibulala kanjani, iNUM siyayizonda (How can we kill NUM? We hate NUM).”

Ntsebeza asked Mathunjwa to explain the role of songs in cultural events.

At that stage, Lonmin counsel Schalk Burger SC, objected.

“Can my colleague (Ntsebeza) explain what he means by cultural event? What is the meaning of a cultural event? I want to be following but I can’t,” said Burger.

Ntsebeza then asked Mathunjwa to explain the role of songs at ceremonies.

Burger objected again: “What ceremony was it at the koppie (hill)? I don’t know whether he is referring to an event at Loftus (rugby stadium), the gathering at the koppie or a wedding. What kind of gathering is he (Ntsebeza) referring to?”

The commission’s chairman, retired judge Ian Farlam, said there was a need to distinguish between the songs and the events.

Ntsebeza said that at stadiums, fans sang songs suggesting that they wanted “to kill and finish off” their opponents.

“When (Orlando) Pirates and (Kaizer) Chiefs play, words like ‘Wafa wafa’ are used. (Die, die, you are going to die),” said Ntsebeza.

“In intense situations, these songs are meant to give courage to those who face confrontation. Students used to do it when they were surrounded by police with dogs.”

The three-member commission is probing the deaths of 44 people in strike-related violence at Lonmin’s platinum mine in Marikana, North West.

They include 34 people shot dead by the police, who opened fire while trying to disperse a group of strikers gathered on a hill near the mine on August 16.

In the preceding week, 10 people, among them two policemen and two security guards, were hacked to death near the mine.

President Jacob Zuma announced the commission in August, saying it would complete its work within four months, and would have to submit its final report a month later. – Sapa

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