Blood-spattered remains make media footage of workers charging even more ambiguous
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Getting into the town was not an easy feat. There were at least four roadblocks before you could gain access to it and at each stop we were interrogated by the police: Why were we there? Why did we choose this particular time to visit? Who was our leader? These are sensitive times, we were told, and therefore every safety measure had to be taken.
The purpose of the interrogation was clear: to intimidate anyone who might be there to fan the fires. The town itself was ghostly quiet. The locals confirmed the obvious - that since the killings everyone was scared to come out or talk. It was like a police state. We passed through a residential area no different from any other squatter camp, except that this black dump was next to South Africa's biggest platinum mine and fed it with cheap black labour.
At the rock formation on which striking mineworkers had camped peacefully for a week, a lone man stood. We called out to him. From a distance, he said he would speak to us only if we promised not take pictures or video footage of him. We assured him that we were from a movement that stood with the workers of Lonmin and would therefore not compromise his security in any way.
He was there on the day workers were murdered. It was easy to see that the trauma was taking its toll on him. He offered to give us a tour of the murder scene and warned us that there was blood everywhere and bits of bone. He had obviously made it through this route. He knew every corner. "People were crushed," he kept repeating. He said several workers were shot at and then run over by Nyalas. He said some could have survived had they not been crushed by these heavy-duty police vehicles.
He took us to a range of rocks where several hundred more workers had been stationed. There, the rocky surface was blue from whatever chemical had been sprayed from above. The rocks, plants and grass were now a deep-blue colour. Workers had been spray-bombed with this substance from helicopters. Their eyes stung, they could not breathe and in effect they were immobilised. Our guide said most of those now detained were from this group.
He showed us how several people had been shot while hiding among the rocks or under bushes. We could see blood splatters that showed a determination to dig workers out of their hiding holes and shoot them. Bloody items of clothing and shoes lay all over the scene.
It looked a lot like an ambush. Video material in the mainstream media showed workers charging at the police, but in fact it seems they were running away from bullets fired from behind. Why would workers armed with knobknorries charge armed police? They were completely surrounded. What we had seen in the media was only half the story. Was there a "shoot to kill" mission?
Throughout our conversation, our guide kept digging in his pocket for a shattered phone. It belonged to his friend who was crushed in the carnage. It was all he had left of his friend. He said he wanted to get someone to check the phone and get his friend's information from it.
There was an uncomfortable silence. He knew as well as we did that the phone could not be revived, that his friend was not going to come back to life. But none of us said it. What was there to say, really?
This report was compiled by the Operation Marikana crew of the September National Imbizo