Marikana: Testimony of 'Mr X' crucial for cops

Strike leaders discuss strategies before addressing the mineworkers before the massacre. (Oupa Nkosi, M&G)

Strike leaders discuss strategies before addressing the mineworkers before the massacre. (Oupa Nkosi, M&G)

The mysterious Mr X came out of witness protection on Thursday to admit to the Marikana Commission to being involved in some of the killings, injuries, destruction of property and intimidation that took place at Marikana in August 2012.

The long-awaited testimony of Mr X got off to a slow start, though, with technical glitches having to be ironed out. Judge Ian Farlam re-read his rules regarding the in-camera testimony of the witness and a lengthy objection by advocate Dali Mpofu, representing the mineworkers wounded and arrested after the Marikana massacre, followed.

The testimony of Mr X, who was one of the striking miners at Marikana in 2012, is being heard via a video link from an unknown, remote location.

His face can be seen on one of the three screens in the courtroom-like venue at the Tshwane municipal offices in Centurion where the commission is being held.
Behind him are two blue screens obscuring the view of the room that he’s in and, to his right, the corner of a table is just visible.

Mr X is the star of the show. Outside, the commission venue is cordoned off by police tape. Emergency vehicles and TV broadcast vans stand in the parking lot.

Packed room
Only those who are accredited are allowed into the commission. The room is packed with lawyers, families of the deceased miners, injured and arrested miners, and a hefty media contingent, leaving no seat open. Everyone has been instructed to keep Mr X’s identity a secret.

With deep frown furrows etched in his forehead, Mr X told the commission, through an isiXhosa translator, that he was aware that he was taking part in an unprotected strike but was not afraid of losing his job.

Led by advocate Frank Mathibedi, who represents the South African Police Service, Mr X began by explaining the initial meetings that the strikers had with each other to discuss their wage demands.

Friends and family members listened to Mr X testify that the strikers were prepared to use violence. (Delwyn Verasamy, M&G)

There is a heavy burden on Mr X’s shoulders, as the police will no doubt be relying on his evidence in the hope that it will strengthen their apparently floundering self-defence argument, which their case is based on.

Their version of events has suffered under the contradictory and sometimes unflattering testimonies of various police witnesses.

Eager for details
The commission itself will also be eager to gain more details about events in the week leading up to August 16 2012, when 34 people were shot and killed by police.

During the days leading up to what has become known as the Marikana massacre, 10 people were killed, including mineworkers, Lonmin security personnel and police officers.

Evidence leader Matthew Chas­kalson told the commission earlier this month: “We have had extensive evidence on the 13th and 16th [of August 2012], but very little evidence on the other events of the week, in particular events that do not involve the SAPS directly.”

Some of the reasons Mr X’s evidence is regarded as important was explained in a statement made by Frikkie Pretorius, an attorney acting on behalf of the SAPS. This will include critical information on the following matters:

  • The organisation and planning of the strike;
  • The intimidation, assaulting and killing of employees who were unwilling to participate in the strike;
  • The march to the National Union of Mineworkers’ (NUM) offices on August 11, during which two strikers were injured;
  • The killing of two Lonmin security guards on August 12;
  • The killing of mineworker Julius Langa on August 13;
  • The events on August 13 in which two SAPS members were killed and one was seriously injured;
  • The participation in rituals in preparation for a confrontation with the police;
  • The plan to attack the police on August 16; and
  • The destruction of property.

It is expected that the police will zoom in on the aspects of Mr X’s testimony that casts the striking miners in a negative light and builds their own case. Whether or not it stands up to vigorous cross-examination has yet to be seen.

In a statement made by Mr X earlier this year, he declares many times that the striking miners, specifically those known as makarapas (strikers who had taken part in rituals with inyangas, or traditional healers) had every intention of resorting to violence to remove any obstacles, such as the police, that stood in their way.

On August 11, a group of striking miners marched on the NUM offices in Marikana. Union officials retaliated, injuring two strikers. In his statement, Mr X says the reason for the march was because the NUM was encouraging striking rock drill operators to return to work.

“It was agreed that violence should be used to close down NUM’s offices and attack any person who was found inside the office,” Mr X says in the statement.

It also provides details of rituals that some of the strikers took part in on the koppie with inyangas. Muti, rituals and, chillingly, “human blood, tongue and chin”, were required to make the miners “fearless, strong and invisible to the police”.

Mr X’s statement reveals how, on August 12, the strikers used the “displaying, brandishing and brushing of dangerous weapons” to provoke Lonmin security officers “to start firing at us so that we could attack them”. In this attack two Lonmin security guards, Hassan Fundi and Frans Mabelani, were killed by the strikers. Fundi’s blood and body parts were removed for use in the inyangas’ muti; Mabelani was set alight inside a car, he claims.

When some of the strikers were killed during a clash with the police on August 13, the explanation in Mr X’s statement is that they were killed either because they were not makarapas or they did not carry out the inyangas’ instructions.

Mr X’s statement also reveals how, on August 16, the day of the massacre, “the committee of 15” strikers who were leading the strike decided that, if their wage demands to Lonmin were not met, “the police being a stumbling block to the attainment of our demand … should be attacked and be removed”.

The police no doubt are hoping that these claims will strengthen their case by portraying the strikers as premeditatedly violent and under the influence of muti to make them invisible and invincible to the police.

But as a self-confessed killer, the credibility of Mr X’s evidence will also be under scrutiny.

It’s not only the police whose argument hangs in the balance: the arrested miners will be holding their breaths, as many are implicated by Mr X’s evidence.

And many families, specifically those of the murdered police officers, the Lonmin security guards and of Julius Langa, who was killed on his way to work, are hoping that this will bring them the truth and closure that they so hope for.

‘Don’t look back in the attack’

The rituals in which some of the striking miners took part with inyangas are expected to form part of Mr X’s evidence in front of the Farlam commission.

Mr X’s statement describes how these rituals took place at a secluded spot on the koppie.

The strikers who took part in the rituals were known as makarapas and had to adhere to the instructions given to them by the inyangas, including waiting for the police to “first fire at us before launching an attack at the police and, if possible, to conduct ourselves in a manner that will provoke the police”.

The makarapas had to approach the police in a crouching manner so that any bullets fired would miss them, defy any orders given by the police and tap their weapons together to make clicking sounds “to get encouragement”.

They were also instructed not to look back once they had launched an attack, to separate themselves from those who had not partaken in the rituals and to sleep at the koppie until their demands were met.

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