/ 25 July 2014

Marikana: Security warning not heeded, with fatal results

Widow of Marikana security guard Hassan Fundi
Widow of Marikana security guard Hassan Fundi

The deaths of two Lonmin security guards on August 12 2012 may have been avoided had a warning given by a Lonmin security superintendent been heeded.

Dewald Louw radioed a warning through to the Lonmin security control room after he was attacked by a crowd of angry miners, who were allegedly on their way to NUM offices.

“I made a comment on radio to emergency ops, just after we were attacked … I said to them, ‘Do not engage the crowd as they are hostile,’ ” Louw told the Marikana commission on Thursday.

It was after Louw was attacked that security officers formed a line to try and stop miners from damaging Lonmin property, and this was when two security officers – Frans Mabelane and Hassan Fundi – were murdered by miners and their car set alight.

“I remember in my whole life I’ve never seen such a thing,” Louw said. “I’m ashamed to admit that I broke down at that stage,” he told the commission.

Fundi had been dragged from the vehicle and had parts of his face chopped off for muti, while Mabelene had been burnt beyond recognition.

Miners were out for revenge
Advocate Karel Tipp, who represents the National Union of Mineworkers and the Fundi family, said that had Louw’s warning been taken seriously, “Mr Fundi and his colleagues might not have found themselves deployed with the results that we know – they lost their lives”.

It was believed the miners were marching to NUM offices to take revenge on what they thought was the killing of two miners the previous day. It later emerged the two miners who were shot by NUM officials on August 11 2012 were only injured, and had not died.

Louw told the commission he could not remember whom he had spoken to on the radio on August 12, but that the duty roster should show who got his warning.

Louw denies using SSG rounds
Later on Thursday, Louw was questioned about the type of ammunition used by Lonmin security officers. SSG (buckshot) bullet cartridges were found at scene one and two on August 16 2012, where a total of 34 miners were shot and killed by police. However, both Lonmin and the police deny that they use SSG rounds.

During cross-examination by evidence leader advocate Charles Wesley, Louw told the commission that Lonmin kept SSG pellets locked in a safe, and if they were used, it was only on the shooting range during practice. He added that he had never been issued SSG rounds during his six years of employment at Lonmin.

Advocate Dali Mpofu, who represents the injured and arrested miners, showed the commission a photo of Louw at scene two after the shootings.

Louw was responsible for escorting medical personnel to scene two after the shootings, where he assisted them. He claimed he had not been at either scene during the shootings, but that he had heard shots being fired.

Ammunition mystery
The photo shows Louw wearing blue surgical gloves holding his shotgun in one hand and a cigarette in the other. Mpofu then showed a photo of a SSG bullet casing at scene two and told Louw that this casing was found not far from where Louw was captured in the photo.

However, Louw insisted that he had rubber bullets in his shotgun at the time and that Mpofu could not make such a judgment, because there were also other Lonmin personnel at the scene at the time.

Mpofu then said to Louw: “The reason I am putting this to you is that some of the deceased had been shot with SSG pellets, which has become the seventh wonder of the commission. The police say they didn’t use it and Lonmin has been very vague about it.”

Louw was unable to shed any light on the mystery.

The commission continues on Friday with the testimony of Lonmin security officer Mogomotsi Joseph Masibi.