A member of Lonmin's tactical response unit has told the Farlam commission that stopping the approximately 3 000 protesters was impossible.
It was impossible for Lonmin mine security guards in Marikana to halt a crowd of protesting miners heading towards offices of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) on August 11 2012, the Farlam commission of inquiry heard on Monday.
Julius Motlogelwa, a member of Lonmin’s tactical response unit, was questioned by Karel Tip, representing the NUM and Aisha Fundi, wife of one of the security guards who was killed in August 2012, at the inquiry in Pretoria.
“Your colleague, Mr [Sello] Dibakwane, said after some discussion between the two of you, it was decided that you drive in front of the crowd to go and warn the NUM members of the danger [of approaching protesters],” said Tip.
“Did you and Mr Dibakwane at any time discuss whether you should not simply stop your vehicle in front of this crowd, get out and ask them to go back? Was that possible?”
Motlogelwa said stopping the approximately 3 000 protesters was impossible.
“The majority of the protesters were still coming to that gathering, where we were standing. We then decided to go and inform the people at the NUM offices of what was going to happen,” he said.
The guard said they had information that the huge crowd of protesters were planning to burn down a NUM office at Lonmin.
Tip said it was Motlogelwa and his colleagues’ duty to protect all lives and property at Lonmin. Motlogelwa agreed.
“Are you telling us that when you knew of this intention to burn the NUM office, your response was to go and inform the NUM people to go away?” Tip asked.
“Why didn’t you decide to prevent the NUM office from being burnt? Instead of talking to people in the NUM office, why didn’t you talk to the crowd, telling it to go back?”
Motlogelwa said the option of confronting the crowd “skipped the security guards’ mind[s]”.
“We felt that saving lives had to come first,” said Motlogelwa.
Tip was unconvinced: “It cannot be candid that it just didn’t occur to you that you should stop the crowd. It is apparent, from what we have heard, that it was not feasible for the two of you to stop that crowd because of the aggression of the crowd.”
Motlogelwa agreed, but said he could not testify about the attitude of the approaching crowd.
Shots were later fired during a clash between the striking mineworkers and the NUM officials on August 11 2012.
The commission is investigating the deaths of 44 people during strike-related violence at Lonmin’s mining operations at Marikana, near Rustenburg in the North West, in August 2012.
Thirty-four people, mostly striking mineworkers, were shot dead in a clash with police, over 70 were wounded, and another 250 arrested on August 16 2012.
In the preceding week, 10 people, including two policemen and two security guards – Hassan Fundi, Aisha’s husband, and Frans Mabelani – were killed.
Fundi and Mabelani were killed on August 12. – Sapa