The Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) president Joseph Mathunjwa told the Farlam commission of inquiry that he reprimanded national organiser Dumisani Nkalitshana on the afternoon of August 16, after he led the miners in a rendition of the song "Le NUM sizoyibulala kanjani" as he feared its meaning would be misinterpreted.
The song, which literally translates into "How will we kill the NUM", was widely chanted by miners in the days leading up to August 16 to express their level of discontent with the National Union of Mineworkers.
When Mathunjwa said the song was “just a metaphor” for the competition between the NUM and Amcu, he drew sustained murmurs and indignation from the sea of red T-shirt-clad NUM supporters, who had come in their numbers to hear Mathunjwa’s pivotal testimony.
Mathunjwa, who is Amcu’s only witness, said this as he was being led in evidence by Amcu legal counsel Tim Bruinders, who questioned Mathunjwa for a full two days on the events that transpired between the August 9 and 16.
The centerpiece of Mathunjwa’s testimony turned out to be his speech on his first visit to the koppie where, in a rambling passionate sermon, Mathunjwa spoke as a man who had inherited the disgruntled membership of a union that had fallen from favour with its constituency. While his main purpose was to help achieve a peaceful disarmament, he could not help but rub salt in the NUM's open wounds. “You saw that yesterday police were escorting everyone [NUM and Amcu],” he told the assembled workers. “But today, Amcu has no escort. We have come on our own because the big leaders that must be protected are absent today. No cop came to recruit you. You were recruited by us. Those that require a police escort know what crime they committed to you.”
Mathunjwa, in a speech that served multiple agendas, was also preoccupied with sanitising the image of his union, hence his plea that workers should rather follow prescribed labour dispute options so they could dispel the image propagated by Lonmin and the NUM that Amcu was a union “built on the workers’ blood".
In a deliberately unfolding narrative, Mathunjwa told the commission that at some point on the afternoon of August 16, a number of factors convinced him that the workers would be gunned down in cold blood. Among these reasons were that North West police commissioner Zukiswa Mbombo declared that the strike should end that day; the Amcu delegation could not find police to speak to after returning from their first visit to the koppie; and that Lonmin representatives said they would give workers an ear and then changed their minds later that day. He said all these events reminded him of Lonmin vice-president of human capital and external affairs Barnard Mokwena’s statement from the previous day (August 15) that “police must go and do their job” if the miners were unwilling to disperse.
In a moment that echoed Anglican bishop Jo Seoka’s testimony, Mathunjwa said the mood around the police’s joint operations centre began to change after all these events transpired.
In a last ditch attempt to broker peace, Mathunjwa returned to the koppie one last time, where he implored workers to retreat, not in defeat, but in order to live to fight another day.
Mathunjwa said the workers thanked him for his hard work but then asked him to leave as they were prepared to wait for the employer. His entourage got into the car but, as they pulled out of Marikana, they received a call informing them that police were killing workers.
Mathunjwa is expected to be cross-examined by Lonmin legal counsel Schalk Burger on Thursday.