People being hacked to death, body parts chopped off for muti and the performance of rituals have been in the spotlight at the Marikana commission since the testimony of “Mr X” started a week ago.
Mr X was one of the striking miners and is testifying through a video link for his own safety.
The commission has been the scene of anguish, as family members of miners, police officers and Lonmin security guards killed in the week preceding the August 16 2012 Marikana massacre, are finally hearing how their loved ones died.
This week, the widow of a miner had to be carried out of the room and attended to by paramedics after she started crying uncontrollably. At the same time, the sister of one of the murdered police officers clung to a brown teddy bear in a navy T-shirt with the words “Missing you” printed above the South African Police Service (SAPS) logo.
Muti and rituals have featured heavily in the testimony of Mr X. He claims these were to protect the strikers. “An inyanga [traditional healer] would make people brave,” he told the commission through an isiXhosa interpreter.
A “committee” of 15 people were chosen to lead the strikers, and were responsible for conveying messages between the inyangas and other strikers.
Mr X said the miners who took part in these rituals had to abide by many rules in order to render the muti effective, such as abstinence from sex and not eating pork, sheep or fish. They were also told by the inyangas “that we were not to fire before the police started shooting … then we would be capable of being shot. But if we did not do so, the police guns would not be able to shoot us.”
Mr X, who was having his evidence led by SAPS representative advocate Frank Mathibedi, described the deaths at the hands of the strikers.
He told how a group of strikers fired shots at two Lonmin security guards after they prevented the strikers from entering a hostel on August 12 2012, while on their way to National Union of Mineworkers offices. He then described how one of the strikers stabbed security officer Hassan Fundi with a spear. Mr X himself hit Fundi on the cheek with a panga and Fundi’s tongue and chin was then cut off and put into a plastic bag along with some of his blood.
The car that contained the body of the other Lonmin security guard, Frans Mabelani, were then doused with petrol and set alight.
“[That] flesh and meat were given to the inyanga who burnt it until it was ashes. Then it was mixed with some ash to strengthen the men … so that they don’t become afraid and turn back,” Mr X said.
Kill the workers
Later on the same day the makarapas [strikers who had taken part in the rituals] went to Marikana’s K4 shaft to see if any miners 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.
At K4 the group of strikers set seven cars alight and killed one miner, Eric Mabebe, whom they had found in the parking lot.
“We arrived there [and] the people who saw us ran away … We killed one person … he was already lying down on the ground, I hit him on the stomach area … I stabbed at him.”
A photo of Mabebe shown to the commission showed 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 were numerous cuts on his back and his shirt was bloodied.
Mr X described how he was also involved in this killing. “We asked where he was 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 to his body, including stab wounds to 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.
Mr X also described his involvement during a confrontation between the strikers and police on August 13 2012. After lengthy discussions between the workers and police, it was only when the police eventually fired rubber bullets, stun grenades and tear gas at the strikers that they retaliated and attacked the police.
He described how the strikers killed two police officers, Tsietsi Monene and Sello Leepaku. They were both attacked “with a panga,” said Mr X, describing how the miners hacked at the two officers.
In the same attack, Mr X chased Lieutenant Shitumo Baloyi towards the police vehicles and stabbed him in the leg. Baloyi survived the attack.
Testimony cut short
Mr X’s testimony on his second day of giving evidence was cut short when he asked Judge Ian Farlam to postpone the commission so that he could consult with his inyanga.
This came just after an extended tea break was held because the witness said he felt sick. “Chair, I’m making an application that these people are using muti against me. I’m asking for permission that I may see my sangoma,” said Mr X, accusing the miners who are attending the commission of using muti to make him sick during his testimony.
On Monday an application was made by advocate Dali Mpofu, representing the injured and arrested miners, to have Mr X sent for mental observation in order to determine his competence and capability as a witness. This was dismissed by Farlam.
On Tuesday, the commission had to adjourn early due to Mr X suffering from fatigue.