The testimony of Mr X has dealt with the 10 killings leading up to the Marikana massacre of 34 miners. The M&G spoke to their families this week.
For a group of families it has been a slow 19 months of waiting to hear the truth about what happened to their loved ones – the miners, police officers and Lonmin security guards who were killed in the week preceding the Marikana massacre in 2012.
With the testimony of Mr X that started last month, they have finally been able to put the pieces of the puzzle together. Mr X, a miner turned police witness, has been testifying by video link from a remote location. This, and the omission of his name, are for his own protection.
“Mr X is one of the bravest men, who stood up against all odds,” Aisha Fundi told the Mail & Guardian this week. Her husband, Hassan Fundi, was one of the Lonmin security officers who was dragged from a car on August 12 2012 by striking miners. He was hacked to death and had his lips and tongue cut off for muti.
Aisha Fundi says Mr X’s testimony matches what her family has found out about her husband Hassan’s death. (Madelene Cronjé, M&G)
“Mr X said he wanted to apologise and that they did it because of the muti rituals, and that when they got [down from] the mountain they just wanted to kill,” said Aisha.
Her brother-in-law, Swahlen Fundi, came from Malawi, their home country, to listen to Mr X’s testimony. The Fundi family had thought Hassan’s murder was because of xenophobia, but now they know otherwise. A tearful Swahlen told the M&G this week how his older brother had been the family’s breadwinner.
Aisha said it had been traumatic to hear details about what happened to her husband. “Mr X said the security guards were apologising when [the miners] approached them. It’s painful to hear that.”
Lizzie Maubane feels the same way. Her brother, Warrant Officer Tsietsi Monene, was hacked to death by the miners in a clash with police on August 13 2012.
Maubane described how she felt when the photos of her brother’s mutilated body were shown on a screen to the commission. “That was the most traumatising, seeing my brother like that, lying there full of gashes and blood … I couldn’t believe it was him. It’s been the most difficult time … What’s he done wrong to deserve this?” she asked.
Lizzie Maubane was traumatised by seeing her brother’s bloody body. (Madelene Cronjé, M&G)
Despite this, she thanked Mr X for shedding light on her brother’s death, saying: “We salute you, Mr X.”
Mary Langa’s eyes welled up with tears as she remembered Mr X’s testimony about her husband. She repeatedly asked why her husband’s name had not been mentioned at the commission, which, until now, has mainly focused on the deaths of 34 miners who were shot by police on August 16 and on the events of August 13, when two police officers and three miners were killed in a clash.
Rock driller Julius Langa was killed on August 13 2012 on his way to work at Lonmin. The commission was shown photos of his body, covered in stab wounds.
“Even a cow you can’t kill with 18 wounds,” said a distraught Mary Langa. “I can’t believe it’s my husband. It would have been better if they’d told him to go back, don’t go to work. Then he’d be here for me and my children. It’s very painful.”
At one point during Mr X’s testimony, Langa had to be carried out of the commission after she broke down.
All the family members say they are glad to have finally heard the truth about what happened to their loved ones and say they have forgiven Mr X. This is despite the serious doubt that has been cast over the credibility of his evidence.
“I know he’s been criticised, but everything he’s spoken of we’ve observed as a family,” said Aisha.
“The other miners denied they killed. Everyone is protecting themselves; no one wants to take responsibility. They’re all blame-shifting. The criminal cases will show who’s right and who’s wrong.”
Hester Mabebe is another person who lost a loved one. Her brother, Eric Mabebe, a rock driller, was killed at Lonmin’s K4 shaft on the night of August 12.
But she said she has accepted the apology Mr X gave in front of the commission to all the families affected by his actions. Hester, the first-born in their family, raised her brother.
The other families have also accepted Mr X’s apology. Leah Mabelane said at least now they have closure. Her husband, Frans Mabelane, was the other Lonmin security guard who was killed by the miners; his body was so badly burnt that Leah was unable to identify it.
“We now know exactly what happened and who did that,” she said.
Fundi agreed with her: “The commission can even close now.”
Mr X’s testimony was due to end on Tuesday, but was cut short because he fell ill. A date still needs to be set for the completion of his testimony.
Unease after ‘assassination’ of miner
A miner who has been mentioned numerous times in Mr X’s testimony, and was implicated by him as one of those who killed police officers and Lonmin security guards, was killed this week.
Bongani Mehlonkomo, aka “Bhayi”, was gunned down on Tuesday evening on his way home from work in Marikana. He was the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union secretary for Lonmin’s Rowland shaft.
Advocate Dali Mpofu, who represents the injured and arrested miners, said his clients are concerned “that the assassination might be connected to the mentioning of people’s names by Mr X”.
Mr X has repeatedly implicated certain miners, including Mehlonkomo, in the deaths and damage to property caused in the week preceding the August 16 massacre, when 34 miners were killed by police. Mpofu said the other miners mentioned by Mr X also believe their lives are threatened. – Gabi Falanga