National

Marikana's Mr X called a liar

Gabi Falanga

Mr X became visibly agitated on Tuesday as an evidence leader accused him of lying to the Marikana commission.

Geoff Budlender has disputed testimony given by Mr X at the Marikana commission of inquiry. (Reuters)

Geoff Budlender produced phone records to dispute Mr X’s claims that Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union president Joseph Mathunjwa spoke telephonically to and visited the strikers on the koppie on the night of August 14 2012.

Mr X told the commission on Monday that Mathunjwa called one the strikers, Xolani, to ask his permission to go to the koppie that night. According to Mr X, Xolani called Mathunjwa back after consulting with the other makarapas (strikers who had undergone rituals). Mr X testified that Mathunjwa told the strikers that night to allow National Union of Mineworkers president Senzeni Zokwana to address them the following day and instructed them to kill him.

But Budlender pointed to phone records which show that no calls were made between Mathunjwa and Xolani. Furthermore, the records show that Mathunjwa was not in Marikana or anywhere else in the province that night. Additionally, the records of Xolani’s phone show that the only calls he made were to numbers located in Marikana.

Mr X’s explanation was that Mathunjwa could have been using someone else’s phone, or given the message to someone else to give to Xolani. He also insisted that Mathunjwa did come to the koppie on the night of August 14.

Budlender then used Mathunjwa’s phone records to show that he was at the SABC early in the morning of August 15 2013 for a radio interview at SAFM. Budlender used a transcript of the radio interview, in which Zokwana was present, to show Mr X that it had only been agreed upon that morning on air that the two union presidents should go to Marikana that day to address strikers and not on the previous day as Mr X claimed.

Mr X could not explain any of these discrepancies satisfactorily, but insisted that Mathunjwa spoke to Xolani on August 14 and then visited the strikers later that night.

Budlender told the commission that he would argue that Mr X’s evidence was a lie. He then reminded Mr X that he was under oath.

“You’ve said a lot of other disputed things also under oath. If the commission finds that you’ve not told the truth ... why should it believe the other things you’ve said under oath?”

He told Mr X that it was impossible to know which parts of his evidence were true and which were not. But Mr X insisted that everything he told the commission was true. 

“I’m telling the truth, I’m prepared to go to the grave now,” he said.

Budlender continued to pick Mr X’s evidence apart, comparing claims he made in a statement in March this year to evidence he gave before the commission. Budlender also questioned Mr X on why certain crucial details were mentioned in his March 2014 statement but not in his original statement made in February 2013. 

Mathunjwa’s phone call and visit to the koppie were not mentioned in his original statement, but were in the later one.

Budlender also questioned Mr X on his assertion that it was the makarapas’ intention to kill the police on August 13 when the police and strikers clashed, during which two police officers and three strikers died.

“The police were very angry about the killing of their members. If it is true that the strikers intended to attack the police on August 13, that is information that should be very important to the police,” Budlender told Mr X. But Mr X had not included this information in his original statement.

Mr X had the same response about both omissions in his original statement. “The gentleman who was taking my statement didn’t ask me thoroughly, but the gentleman who was taking the last statement interrogated me, that’s how he got more information.”

Budlender then disputed Mr X’s claim that the strikers were heading towards the informal settlement to kill people who were not taking part in the strike on August 13 when they clashed with the police.

He asked Mr X why they decided to attack the settlement on the afternoon of August 13 and not on any of the other days of the strike. 

“What your evidence amounts to is this,” Budlender told Mr X. “In that whole week, the only time you tried to attack the people in the settlement is when you had armed police watching you.”

Budlender then pointed to further evidence that disputed Mr X’s claim. “[Lieutenant] Colonel [Salmon] Vermaak was watching the movement of the strikers from the air. He said he didn’t see the strikers moving towards the settlement.” 

Captain Paul Loest, who was also watching the strikers at the time, testified that they were not heading towards the settlement, Budlender told the commission. 

“In light of all the evidence and your claim that the only time you attacked the settlement is when police were watching you, your claim that you attacked the settlement is false,” Budlender told Mr X. The witness once again insisted that his evidence was the truth. Budlender then pointed out that Mr X did not claim in his original statement either that they were on their way to the settlement. 

As Mr X’s testimony continued, he became increasingly restless, shifting around in his chair, rubbing his face and frowning.

His testimony continues on Thursday.

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