The widow of a miner had to be physically carried out of the room and attended to by paramedics as she started crying uncontrollably. Her wailing could still be heard inside long after the testimony had continued.
At the same time the sister of one of the murdered police officers clung onto a brown teddy bear with a navy T-shirt donning the words “missing you” printed above the SAPS logo.
It’s been 19 months since the commission started and at last the families of security guards, police officers and mine workers who were killed in the week preceding the August 16 2012 Marikana massacre, are hearing details of how their loved ones died.
Mr X, who was one of the striking miners and is testifying via a video link for his own protection, told the commission how on the night of August 12 2012, himself and some of the other makarapas (strikers who had undergone rituals and taken muti) went to Marikana’s K4 shaft to see if there were any miners who were at work.
“It was said [we] should go and kill the people who are going to work; they should join the strike,” Mr X said.
Once at K4, the group of strikers set seven cars alight and killed one miner, Eric Mabebe, who they found in the parking lot. “We arrived there [and] the people who saw us ran away … We killed one person, that’s the person I remember who was wearing a white T-shirt … he was already lying down on the ground, I hit him on the stomach area … I stabbed at him,” Mr X revealed. A photo of Mabebe shown to the commission shows his bloodied face.
Photos of another mine worker, Julius Langa, who was killed on his way to work in the early hours of August 13 2012 were also shown. There are numerous cuts on his back, and his shirt which is pulled up to his neck, is bloodied. This after Langa’s wife, Mary Langa, insisted that the photos of her maimed husband be shown at the commission, despite having been carried out of the commission earlier in the morning in a distraught state.
Evidence leader, Advocate Kameshni Pillay said Mary Langa wanted everyone to see what had happened to her husband, in the same way that the commission had been shown photos of the miners who had been killed and injured during the actual massacre.
Mr X described how he was also involved in the killing of Julius Langa . “We asked where was he going to. When he said he was going to work, we asked if he didn’t know there was a strike and he didn’t have a chance to answer to that … we killed him. We stabbed him. I also took part. I struck him with a panga.”
The post mortem results show that Langa had over 18 wounds on his body, including stab wounds on his liver, stomach, heart and both lungs. His skull was also fractured. “We wanted to send a message to the people who were not aware of the strike that there is a strike … so that they should come and join and support the strike,” said Mr X, explaining their violent actions.
Miners tell police to “tighten their balls” before attack
SAPS representative, Frank Mathibedi, who is leading Mr X’s evidence, then showed the commission a video clip of what happened later on August 13, when the group of makarapas had a confrontation with police members.
In the video, the miners can be seen and heard tapping their weapons together. Mr X says this was to speed up the effect of the muti that they had taken. “We knew that things were going to be bad, that people would be killed and we were hurrying things up,” he said.
The miners can also be seen singing, a song which Mr X said is called “Tighten your balls young man otherwise you won’t come right.” He said the miners were singing this because they knew that they were not capable of being shot by police as a result of the muti they’d taken.
He also explained that the reason the miners who addressed the police officers kept their fists clenched was an instruction from the inyangas (traditional healers) who had performed the rituals on them. “The inyanga told us that if we did not follow his instructions, the result would be that the guns of the police would be effective, they’d work [and] that we had to follow the instructions at all times that he’s given us.”
Mathibedi asked Mr X why the miners told police that they are “not fighting”. He responded that they were “just fooling” the police. “We wanted him to hurry up and get angry so that they could start shooting … the police were stopping us from what we wanted. We wanted the employer to give us what we wanted. We knew that the police would not allow us to proceed with the things that we had because this was illegal,” he explained.
It was when the police eventually fired rubber bullets, stun grenades and tear gas at the strikers, that they retaliated and attacked the police.
Mr X described how the strikers killed two police officers Tsietsi Monene and Sello Leepaku. “He was chopped on the back of his head with a panga,” said Mr X as he described how the miners hacked at the the two officers using their pangas and guns. During the same attack, Mr X chased Lieutenant Shitumo Baloyi towards the police vehicles and stabbed him in his leg. Baloyi survived the attack.
The strikers also removed the guns, cell phones and radios from all three of the police officers who were attacked.
Suffering from fatigue
After the lunch break, Mathibedi asked the commissioner, retired judge Ian Farlam to postpone Mr X’s testimony to Friday because he said the witness was tired. Farlam granted the early adjournment on the grounds of being fair to the witness, albeit reluctantly. Mr X could be seen smiling on the video screen as the postponement was granted.
After the commission, family members of those killed before the August 16 massacre, approached the media. Lizzie Maubane, the sister of slain police officer Monene told the media that she now had closure on how her brother died.
“Today Mr X, I really appreciate what he said… because of the truth he spoke today… everyone will see how cruel those people were… those people [the police] were uniformed, he was brutally killed, but today I know the people who killed him,” said Maubane, still holding tightly onto her police teddy bear.
Mary Langa also said she was glad she now knows who killed her husband. “I saw how they stabbed him 18 times,” she said in isiSwati. “They stabbed him like a cow.”
On Wednesday and Thursday, the commission will hear the testimony of Gary White, who is an international public order policing expert, who was asked by the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) to submit an opinion on the shootings in Marikana.
Mr X’s testimony will continue on Friday.