Marikana miner's mysterious date with death
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Official records state that Semi Johannes Jokanisi died on August 16 at the Marikana shootings on Wonderkop farm in North West. But a family friend who also works on the Marikana mines and knew Jokanisi well said he disappeared days before and believes he was killed by police two days before the reported shootings took place.
The Mail & Guardian investigated the circumstances under which Jokanisi disappeared and died.
Jokanisi's neighbour in Pondoland, who asked to be referred to only as Pat, became worried late in the afternoon of August 13 after Jokansi failed to show up at his home at the Karee hostel in Marikana.
We visited Pat, a miner in his late 50s, in his one-room brick home in the Marikana township. We got hold of him through Jokanisi's father, Goodman, who also works on Lonmin's mines, but who was on leave in Pondoland in the week of the Marikana shootings. Pat was the one who first told Goodman that his son was dead. After searching for a week, Pat found Jokanisi's body in the Phokeng mortuary on August 17.
Jokanisi lived in the Karee hostel, sharing two bedrooms with his father and three other miners. He slept in a 5m-by-5m room with his father and worked as a winch operator at Lonmin's Karee 4 Belt shaft a few kilometres away.
No sign of Jokanisi
His housemate of the past two years, who asked to be referred to only by his first name, Tshikitsha, said Jokanisi was consistent in his behaviour: he slept at home every night and did not drink, smoke or have a girlfriend. When he last saw him on August 11, a Saturday morning, they were talking about soccer. Jokanisi then left for Marikana town to visit Pat. Tshikitsha never saw him again and neither did any of his other housemates.
Pat remembered Jokanisi's visit on the Saturday. "We were here in my room," said Pat. "I told him to go and post my money [to Pondoland]."
After Jokanisi left his house, Pat never saw him alive again.
By late Monday afternoon on August 13, Pat was worried because there was still no sign of Jokanisi. Pat had been on the Wonderkop koppie with the other strikers from 8am until late in the afternoon, but had not seen Jokanisi there. On Monday afternoon at the Wonderkop koppie, between 3pm or 4pm, Pat estimated, he and the other strikers had seen three police helicopters circling between Karee 3 shaft and Karee 4 shaft and had heard gunfire. He said that police in the helicopters were throwing teargas canisters and firing shots. What he saw later in the morgue convinced him that live ammunition was used.
Pat said he had contact with someone in that group of men and had heard they were marching from Karee 3 towards Karee 4 to join the strikers at Wonderkop. He said the police had tried to prevent them from reaching Wonderkop, which resulted in the shots fired by the police and the miners scattering.
Tshikitsha was inside their home at the Karee hostel a few kilometres away when he heard a series of shots. He saw three helicopters circling near Karee 4 shaft.
At Donkerhoek, a group of shacks housing no more than 100 people about a kilometre from Karee 4 shaft, residents had a better view of the events. Pat visited Donkerhoek to find out if Jokanisi was injured there. He took us there and introduced us to a friendly old man in a Basotho hat and carrying a cane. The old man would not give us his name.
He said residents had witnessed a group of miners crossing the field next to the settlement in the direction of the Karee 4 shaft. When they reached the gravel road leading past the Donkerhoek settlement, it was crawling with police vehicles. Police tried to stop the men, after which the strikers scattered into small groups.
Another man, who asked to be named as Steven, said that there were three helicopters circling directly overhead: "They were too close. I saw smoke come from the aeroplane [helicopter], I thought it was rubber bullets."
He couldn't say how many policemen there were. "There were so many [on foot] and police cars and hippos [armoured police vehicles]." Steven said the police on foot had used live ammunition and two of the miners were shot, one in the field right next to the settlement, the other in the settlement as he was trying to flee.
Steven and the old man took us to a shack where they said they saw the man fall. "He tried to open the door but collapsed," said Steven.
Makaliseng Motsebetsi was inside her home as the helicopters hovered overhead and shots were fired. She heard someone trying to open the door, then saw a man armed with a spear and knopkierie collapse outside her window. She said he was alive, but later died of a bullet wound to the inner thigh of his left leg.
The description of the fallen man was in part the reason why Pat was convinced this was Jokanisi. According to Steven and the old man, the man was dressed in khaki pants and a khaki jacket, as well as brown shoes. This, said Pat, was an outfit Jokanisi often wore and was wearing when he found him in the mortuary.
Motsebetsi showed us a hole in her shack that she said had been caused by a bullet. Afraid of armed policemen, she hid under her bed. She never found the bullet. The old man produced shell casings that he said they picked up after the incident.
However, there are discrepancies between the residents' account of the incident and that of Pat and Tshikitsha. Motsebetsi estimated that the shooting took place at 2pm that Monday, whereas Pat estimated it to have happened closer to 4pm. Tshikitsha was not sure when it occurred, only that it happened in the afternoon. Residents said the man was shot in the leg, whereas Pat was convinced upon inspecting Jokansisi's body that he had been shot in the head.
On the Friday, with Jokanisi still missing, Pat went to the Phokeng mortuary to try to track him down. He asked to see the bodies of those miners killed on Thursday, but had no luck. He then asked to see any bodies brought in on Monday. It was then that he came across Jokanisi. Pat said that a part of the top of Jokanisi's skull was missing. He was buried on September 1.
At the time of going to print the Independent Police Investigative Directorate had not responded.
South African Police Service spokesperson Dennis Adriao said that police had reported the incident to the directorate and that eight people, none of whom were police officers, were arrested in connection with the 10 murders in the week prior to the Marikana shooting.
Pat remains convinced that Jokanisi did not die on the Thursday, but was shot on the Monday by police from the helicopter.
Heidi Swart is the Eugene Saldanha Fellow in social justice reporting, sponsored by the Charities Aid Foundation, Southern Africa