Video clips of Marikana shootings spark emotional scenes

Emotional scenes unfolded at the Farlam commission, after clips showing the shootings that took place on August 16 at Lonmin.

Emotional scenes unfolded at the Farlam commission, after clips showing the shootings that took place on August 16 at Lonmin.

The clips were played without the anticipation of judge Ian Farlam and evidence leader Geoff Budlender.

The clips, the third of which showed police laying barbed wire and shooting at running workers, caused emotional upheaval in the room as several mourners and family members seated in the front row lost composure, many being reduced to tears and sobs. This led to calls for an adjournment by advocate Dumisani Ntsebeza who is representing 21 families of the deceased.

The weeping family members and widows were comforted by counselors on standby.

Judge Ian Farlam, who is heading the commission, expressed dismay at the screening of the offending footage as he was under the impression that the footage to be screened was exclusively contextual. He concurred with suggestions that the family members should be moved to an adjacent room where, if they wish to, they can watch the footage in seclusion, with the attendant counsellors.

"We express our sympathy to those who found it distressing.
We all found it distressing but some may have found it particularly distressing because of their personal circumstances." The judge then called for an early adjournment at about 12.30pm, instructing all parties to resume at 13.45pm.

Long collusion
The tone of the day's proceedings had been set by advocate Dali Mpofu, who leads a team representing the injured and arrested miners. In his opening statement, he mentioned that South Africa had a long history of collusion between state organs and mining houses in crushing strikes, drawing particular attention to the Rand Rebellion in 1922, where over 200 people were killed as military firepower was brought in to crush the spreading rebellion.  

He said that his team was in the possession of email communication between Cyril Ramaphosa, Lonmin bosses and the police, where he called for concomitant action to curtail deeds he described as "criminal and dastardly".

The email, apparently sent at 2.58pm on August 15, came 24 hours before police mowed down the striking workers. Ramaphosa's Shanduka Group is a shareholder at Lonmin and he sits on the board. Ramaphosa has intimated in the press that his R300-million investment for a 9% stake was now "completely underwater, almost lost".

Prior to the screening of the footage, advocate Ishmael Semenya, who is representing the South African Police Service, had objected to opening statements he deemed as existing outside of the parameters of opening statements, in particular where Mpofu equated police action on August 16 to "murder and extra judicial" killings.

Mpofu responded by saying he had not objected to suggestions that police killed miners in the mistaken thought that friendly fire was an attack by surging miners, as Semenya has suggested of the nature of the killings in the other smaller koppies.

'Infested by migrant workers'
Earlier on Tuesday, the Bapo Ba Mogale royal family and its community is upset that its land is being "infested" by migrant workers, the Farlam commission heard.

"Lonmin had entered into a notarial lease with the Bapo Ba Mogale royal family ... Wonderkop is a sub-community of Bapo Ba Mogale and falls in its jurisdiction," the royal family's lawyer Karabo Bareng Kgoroeadira said.

"Sadly, the Bapo Ba Mogale traditional community is struggling for basic rights such as water and sanitation."

She said these social struggles contributed to the "boil which has been simmering around the mines".

A notarial mineral lease, which is an obligation to pay royalties to the tribal authorities, was signed between the royal family and Lonmin platinum mine in the 1970s.

The commission is tasked with establishing the cause of a shooting in which 34 striking Lonmin workers died and 78 were wounded when police opened fire while trying to disperse a group encamped on a hill in Nkaneng on August 16.

The workers had been carrying knobkerries, pangas, sticks and iron rods.

Workers at the mine went on strike on August 10, demanding a monthly salary of R12 500. Within four days, 10 people had been killed, two of them policemen and two of them security guards.

At the hearing on Tuesday, Kgoroeadira said the shooting had affected the traditional community.

"The Bapo Ba Mogale community is frustrated with Lonmin.

"Lonmin have been operating for a considerable period of time ... without any regard for the social conditions [for those] on whose land they operate," she said.

It was because of Lonmin that there was a burden of informal settlements in the area.

Kgoroeadira said Lonmin had failed to meet its socio-economic obligations, which included infrastructure and job creation in the area, in terms of the mining charter.

"Lonmin is exploiting minerals that belong to the royal family and its traditional community," she said. – additional reporting by Sapa

Kwanele Sosibo

Kwanele Sosibo

Kwanele Sosibo studied journalism at Durban's ML Sultan Technikon before working at Independent Newspapers from 2000 to 2003. In 2005, he joined the Mail & Guardian's internship programme and later worked as a reporter at the paper between 2006 and 2008, before working as a researcher. He was the inaugural Eugene Saldanha Fellow in 2011. Read more from Kwanele Sosibo

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