Marikana: NUM witness contradicts himself at inquiry
The case of the NUM marksmen that caused the injuries of two Lonmin protesters near their offices on August 11 "has been left to rot".
Advocate Dali Mpofu, who represents the injured and arrested miners at the Marikana commission of inquiry, said this while cross-examining National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) witness Albert Gegeleza who was present at the office on the day gunshots rang out critically injuring two of Mpofu's clients, namely Bongani Ngema and Mabuyakhulu, known as "Zulu".
The NUM members present at the office that day numbered between 20 and 30 and have since been moved to a place of safety. Even though they are widely known, they have never been arrested on charges of attempted murder.
It emerged in evidence on Wednesday that Mabuyakhulu and Ngema were both shot in the back and could not have been facing their attackers when they were injured.
During his cross-examination Gegeleza confidently told the commission that even though he was questioned by the police, he has never been arrested and has never seen the inside of a court in his life. He also stated that even though he knew the names of most of those standing guard with him when striking workers marched on the organisation's offices in Wonderkop, he could not divulge them openly to the commission for fear of their safety.
Gegeleza's insistence that he saw no guns on the day of the shooting and did not see where the gunfire came from was in contrast to his NUM comrade Manisela William Setelele who said he knew the people responsible for the shooting but would also not divulge them publicly.
The August 11 incident is regarded as a turning point in the events leading up to August 16 when 34 miners were killed by police gunfire. Prior to the NUM office shooting, workers were armed mostly with sticks, knobkerries and assegais – an ensemble of weapons considered to be routine for cultural gatherings – before escalating their armaments and embarking on several episodes of violence, apparently in retaliation for the shooting of their two colleagues on August 11.
Initially, the two workers were widely believed to be dead.
During his cross-examination, Gegeleza claimed that a group of roughly 20 NUM members were able to repel a group of 2 000 marching strikers and force them on the retreat without the use of firearms, a claim made all the more unbelievable by the fact that he confirmed hearing the sounds of gunfire emanating from the vicinity of the office. He also said he later followed an injured man.
Gegeleza also contradicted his own witness statement by suggesting during cross-examination that workers were armed with pangas as they approached the NUM office, whereas his earlier witness statement does not mention the presence of pangas.
Earlier video footage screened before the Marikana commission, of workers on that day, suggest that pangas were not part of their arsenal.
Gegeleza also claimed that stones were thrown first by the advancing strikers whereas the statements of security guard Sello Dibakwane and NUM member Julius Mtlokgelwa, who were both present that day, suggest that NUM threw the first stones.
Gegeleza is to be followed by NUM president Senzeni Zokwana, who will be led in evidence by NUM legal representative Karel Tip on Thursday.