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Marikana: Lonmin accused of hiding shooting records

Gabi Falanga

Lonmin is accused of deliberately changing records to conceal that their security personnel had fired shots at strikers.

Lonmin has been accused of deliberately changing their records to conceal that their personnel had fired shots at strikers at Marikana in August 2012. (Delwyn Verasamy, M&G)

Lonmin has been accused of deliberately changing their records to conceal that their personnel had fired shots at strikers at Marikana in August 2012. This emerged at the Farlam commission on Tuesday. 

Evidence leader Advocate Matthew Chaskalson pointed out numerous instances where incidents that had been reported in Lonmin’s occurrence book had been omitted in the occurrence report that Lonmin submitted to the commission. 

“All evidence of Lonmin shooting at strikers seems to have been removed by someone in the log given to us by Lonmin as their logbook,” Chaskalson told the commission. This includes shootings on August 10, 11 and 13 2012.  

Lonmin witness Dirk Botes, who is a security manager at the mine, could not explain why these incidents had been removed from the record, and insisted that the people responsible for compiling it reported to the head of Lonmin security at the time, Graeme Sinclair, and not to himself.  

Chaskalson pointed out that three other reports showed that Lonmin security officers fired rubber rounds at strikers on August 10. They also fired at the NUM offices on August 11. “There appears to be a deliberate attempt to hide that Lonmin fired rubber bullets at NUM [National Union of Mineworkers] offices on the 11th [August],” Chaskalson said. 

Gaps in crucial footage 
Botes then came under fire for gaps in Lonmin’s security camera footage of critical events during the August 2012 strike. Again, it is unclear if these events were not recorded at all, or if they were recorded but either not saved or simply not handed over to the commission. 

On the night of August 12, Lonmin employee Eric Mabebe was attacked and killed by protesters at Lonmin’s K4 shaft. “It seems that the attack on Mabebe on 12 August was recorded, but the footage hasn’t been given to the commission,” Chaskalson said and asked Botes why this was the case. 

Botes responded, “My knowledge is that there were no cameras available at K4. All of them were defective at the time.” Botes defended Lonmin’s failure to monitor K4 shaft by camera and claimed that they did not envisage that strikers would attack this shaft. “K4 is the furthest shaft north west from the koppie. We didn’t forsee that they would attack that shaft,” he told the commission.  

“Lonmin security monitored the K3 and Eastern Plats Saffy shafts, which are close to the hostels and identified as high risk areas,” Botes added. However, the commission’s chairperson, retired judge Ian Farlam was quick to point out that the evidence shows that in fact there had been striker activity in the vicinity of the K4 shaft before the August 12 attack on Mabebe and that Lonmin security should have forseen an attack on the shaft. 

Botes responded that the access route to the K4 shaft went past the K3 shaft and that that shaft was monitored. “We didn’t expect any attack from where it happened,” he told the commission, detailing the route that the strikers had taken from the koppie. After a tea break, Botes told the commission he had contacted one of his colleagues who confirmed that there were in fact cameras installed at K4 shaft, but that they were not integrated into Lonmin’s security system. 

He told the commission he would find out if any footage of the August 12 attack had been saved somewhere by someone. Botes was also severely criticised for the absence of footage of the striker’s attack on Lonmin security officials Frans Mabelane and Hassan Fundi earlier on the same day, which left them dead.  

Chaskalson tried to establish why this was the case. “The scene where it took place was in direct view of camera 218,” Chaskalson put to Botes. He added that the commission had footage taken on the following days by the camera in question, which proved that it had a view of the place where the attack took place on August 12. 

Footage of NUM officials returning to their offices immediately after the clash between them and the strikers was also available, making it even more peculiar that the clash itself had not been recorded. “It’s hard to imagine that the movement of a crowd of 100 or more strikers … wouldn’t have been picked up by the camera,” said Chaskalson, referring to the camera’s motion sensor.  

Camera not activated
Botes explained that this particular camera was not activated by motion and that in fact the operators of the cameras had to be specifically notified and instructed to operate the cameras. He said on this particular day it was Mabelane who was in charge of the control room and surveillance operators and that he should have shared information of the approaching protesters with the camera operators. 

But Farlam criticised this explanation, saying that the operators in the control room should have been alert enough to see the 2 000-strong group approaching and then switch on the camera using their own initiative. Chaskalson pointed to the evidence of a senior Lonmin security officer, Julius Motlogeloa, who had told the commission that Lonmin security’s control room was aware of the march, making it even more odd that the camera was not on.  

Botes was unable to tell the commission if the Lonmin camera operators had been disciplined for failing to capture this incident.

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