/ 2 October 2012

Farlam commission hears NUM ‘shot at protesters’

The head of the Farlam commission
The head of the Farlam commission

National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) members shot at protesters, a worker told the judicial inquiry into the shooting at Lonmin's platinum mine in Marikana on Tuesday.

The mineworker, who spoke through a translator, told commission chair Ian Farlam that miners were marching on the road behind the local police satellite office to the NUM's office on August 11.

En route, NUM members confronted and shot at them, he said. Two workers were killed. The scene where the miners were shot formed part of an in loco inspection by the commission.

From there the commission went to the Andrew Saffy Memorial Hospital, where miners wounded in the shooting on August 16 were taken.

On that day 34 miners were killed and 78 wounded when police opened fire while trying to disperse protesters near Lonmin's platinum mine in Marikana, North West.

'Disaster plan'
Hospital executive director, Dr Mel Mentz, took the commission on a tour of the wards. He said 56 injured patients were admitted to the hospital on the night of the shooting. Two workers were declared dead on arrival and one died at the hospital.

"There were so many casualties we had to activate our disaster plan," he told Farlam.

"We had to make another room into a hospital room."

Mentz said the hospital's primary casualty ward only had place for six. Another ward was used as a secondary casualty ward.

The injured miners were stabilised at the hospital before being taken to other hospitals in Rustenburg, Johannesburg and Pretoria.

Some patients were also taken to another mining hospital, said Mentz. Three patients were carried by helicopter, others by ambulance.

Set alight
Earlier on Tuesday, the commission was shown the scene where four of the company's vehicles were burnt.

Natasha Viljoen, of Lonmin, said the four vehicles were set alight at its western platinum technical services office.

"The men climbed over the fence," she told Farlam.

The parking bays where the vehicles had been burnt were covered in glass, debris and ash.

She said that since the incident the office, which was next to the Wonderkop Stadium, had been enclosed with barbed wire.

The commission, accompanied by advocates, lawyers, observers and media would also go to the Wonderkop mining hostels, the Lonmin formal housing settlement and two informal settlements in the area.

Some of the legal teams representing the workers and families asked that the commission also inspect the areas where Lonmin management lived in Mooinooi.

Demand for counselling
Activists protesting at Nkaneng in Wonderkop near Rustenburg on Tuesday called for counselling for Lonmin miners who saw co-workers being shot dead.

"There is a need for counselling these people, they are not right," said Peter Makena, a member of the Marikana Support Campaign.

He said mineworkers lived in fear because of the shooting.

"They saw their friends, brothers and fathers falling dead in front of them; they need to be counselled for them not to have flashbacks of the incident," said Makena.

"We appeal to the authorities to provide them with counselling in three days from now."

Members of the Marikana Support Campaign protested outside Wonderkop stadium near the mine, singing and waving placards, calling for the police to be prosecuted.

"Do not let the police get away with murder," read several posters.

Another said: "Re eme mona ga re tsitsinyege, re ba tla nnete fela" – loosely translated: "We are standing here, we are not moving, we want the truth."

Employers to blame
Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi said on Tuesday employers were fully to blame for the wildcat strikes rocking the mining industry.

"The people who must shoulder all the blame for these wildcat strikes are the mine bosses," he told media in Johannesburg.

He blamed Impala Platinum bosses in particular for the strikes.

"Impala committed a grave error in offering an 18% increase to one category to the exclusion of the rest of workers."

He said this had raised expectations among workers.

"The collective bargaining system is currently under threat not because of the NUM, but because the employers miscalculated," Vavi said.

Workers have been involved in wildcat strikes at Anglo American Platinum (Amplats), Anglogold Ashanti and Samancor Chrome Western Mine, among others.

NUM general secretary Frans Baleni said five people had been killed on Sunday in the Rustenburg area.

"Two of those five were Impala employees," he said.

Baleni said the killings came after Angloplats threatened to dismiss workers who did not return to work on Tuesday to face a disciplinary hearing.

"In our evaluation, this is linked to industrial action," he said.

Police were not immediately available to confirm the killings. – Sapa