Marikana: Gory details emerge as Mr X testifies
“We took some of the flesh of the security [officer]. It was to make our muti strong.”
This was one of the confessions made by Mr X during his first day of testifying at the Marikana commission on Thursday.
Mr X, who was one of the striking miners at Marikana in 2012, is under police witness protection and his long-awaited testimony is now being heard in-camera.
While his evidence was being led by Advocate Frank Mathibedi, who represents the South African Police Service (SAPS), Mr X told how they took pieces of flesh from one of the Lonmin security guards who was killed by the striking miners on August 12 2012. They did this on the instruction of inyangas (traditional healers) to make the muti, used during the rituals with the strikers, strong.
According to Mr X, the muti and rituals were to protect the strikers.
“An inyanga would make people brave, who would lead the warriors,” he told the commission through an isiXhosa interpreter. “The inyanga was going to make us not subject to being shot [and] lock the fire arms if we’re being shot at.”
Upon being shown a photo of the inyangas’ rag with lions printed on it, Mr X slowly started singing a song the strikers made up while on the koppie taking part in the rituals. “The lion from Bezana, the lion that eats people,” he sang in his low, husky voice. The significance of this song has not yet emerged.
A “committee” of 15 people were chosen by the strikers to undergo these rituals. It was these 15 who were the leaders of the strikers, and responsible for conveying messages between the inyangas and other strikers.
March to NUM
When questioned by Mathibedi on why the mine workers marched to National Union of Mineworkers’ (NUM) offices on August 11 2012, Mr X insisted that “we had gone to kill [them]”.
Mathibedi referred to three instances where other mine workers testified to other reasons why they had marched to the NUM offices, namely to ask them why the union was preventing the mine workers from talking to Lonmin management; and to deal with allegations that strikers had been assaulted and forced to go to work by NUM officials while they were on strike.
But Mr X remained insistent that the reason they marched to the NUM offices was to kill the people inside. “We were armed, Mr Chairperson, with pangas and spears. We were going to kill [them] in the office,” he said.
Mr X also spoke about the initial meetings held by the mine workers on August 9 and 10 2012 to discuss their wage demands and plan of action with each other.
It was on August 10 that miners marched “peacefully” to the offices of Lonmin management to make their requests known, by writing their wage demands on a piece of cardboard.
Mr X told how after 15 minutes a “white man” – one of Lonmin’s management – emerged from the office. “He said the demands would be addressed by the union in 2013, and that is the agreement with the union. [He said] go back to work [and that] our strike is illegal.”
The miners then decided they would take action against those miners who returned to work and would also take steps against the refusal of Lonmin to address their wage demands.
The testimony of Mr X got off to a slow start, as technicians fine-tuned the video link through which he is testifying, but also due to a lengthy objection by Advocate Dali Mpofu, who represents the injured and arrested mine workers.
Mpofu asked the commission to exclude the statements of six of his clients who are mentioned in Mr X’s statement because he says they are “clearly self-incriminatory” and were “obtained by the use of very graphic torture”.
Retired judge Ian Farlam judged that Mpofu should hand over the names of the miners whose statements he would like to be excluded before he makes a ruling on the matter.
As the day wore on, Mr X grew increasingly weary, rubbing his face regularly and leaning forward in his chair – leaving those sitting in the commission with a view of the top of his head.
Mr X’s testimony continues on Friday.