Video footage of events leading up to the August 16 shootings shown at the Farlam commission appears to have glaring and calculated omissions.
This emerged from studying videos supplied by Lonmin and the South African Police Service, which were screened at the commission on Tuesday.
Lonmin footage of August 9 to 11 reveals a picture of spirited miners who were mostly unarmed in the early days of the strike action becoming increasing more menacing as the days progressed.
On August 9, several hundred miners, presumably rock drill operators, gathered without incident around Wonderkop, where they then hatched the plan to march on Lonmin offices the following day. In video clips supplied by Lonmin of those first two days, the miners swell in number and are depicted in their thousands as they descend on Lonmin’s head office armed, in some cases with sticks. A security officer manning the camera on August 9 is heard describing the gathering as incident-free, while in the footage from August 10, a Lonmin security staffer is heard saying that North West deputy police commissioner Major General Mpembe was receiving updates on the situation.
Lonmin footage of August 11 shows miners marching on a National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) office situated near the Wonderkop hostel, still largely unarmed, but then shows no further footage of the event cited by the strikers as the turning point in their attitude to armament. The strikers allege that two of their colleagues were killed when people in the NUM office opened fire on them. It was left to evidence leader Geoff Budlender to connect the dots by explaining the sequence of the footage when the following clip depicted miners with significantly more threatening weapons marching around the Wonderkop hostel some hours after the alleged shooting at the NUM offices
Similarly, police footage of a significant breakdown in communication – this time taking place on August 13 and resulting in the death of three workers and two policemen – is patchy.
On August 13, Major General William Mpembe and several officers confronted a group of at least 100 miners as they made their way from Lonmin offices back to the koppie, where they were to meet the rest of their colleagues. An increasingly tense exchange took place, with Mpembe insisting that he was after the strikers’ assegais, and the strikers in turn stressing that they were not violent but needed the arms for protection. As the exchange continues, the miners insist that police accompany them side by side, so police can observe their peaceful intentions, while Mpembe is also heard protesting that he can't let them pass armed as they are. Eventually an exasperated Mpembe is heard offering an ultimatum: “Ok, I am counting, I am counting … "
What follows next is a clip of the miners proceeding on their way, but the footage stops before the carnage that took place minutes later, leaving two policemen and three workers dead. Lonmin CCTV footage is also shot from too long a distance to reveal anything of use.
Full disclosure continues to be a sticking point at the commission, with the appearance of several witnesses being delayed amid suspicions that the police are withholding information that may be prejudicial in a bid to strengthen their case.
The commission continues on Wednesday.