Mail & Guardian

Marikana: NUM commends and condemns striking miners

31 Jan 2013 18:27 | Kwanele Sosibo

'In defending the office, they defended the image of the organisation,'said the National Union of Mineworkers' Senzeni Zokwana. (Delwyn Verasamy, M&G)

'In defending the office, they defended the image of the organisation,'said the National Union of Mineworkers' Senzeni Zokwana. (Delwyn Verasamy, M&G)

“I believe those shop stewards were brave,” said the National Union of Mineworkers' Zokwana. “The amount of time they had when those people were coming was not enough for them to analyse their options. The people who were trained to protect property were supposed to do their jobs [but they didn't].

"In defending the office, they defended the image of the organisation. We stand by them because nobody has the right to threaten, destroy property or kill a person.”

The incident Zokwana is referring to, in which a group of men allegedly threw stones at a large crowd of advancing miners before shooting two of them in the back, set the strike on an episodic orgy of violence that would claim at least eight lives by August 14.

Zokwana condemned the violence of the striking miners while at the same time commending the actions of the shop stewards who have since gone to a place of safety. A previous NUM witness told the commission that he knew the names of the shooters, who have never been arrested, but would not divulge them to the commission.

Zokwana however, portrayed his men as victims who were under attack – even though the incidents he lists occurred after the August 11 shootings, which several witnesses have said were instigated by the NUM.

'Restoring law and order'
“The killing of security guards, the killing of NUM shop stewards at the koppie; it was no longer a situation that needed negotiations,” he said of the Lonmin strike. “It was a situation that required trained personnel to play their role in restoring law and order.”

This was why, Zokwana said, he was reluctant to go the koppie on August 15 to go and convince the strikers to disarm. “Having been briefed and made aware of the killing [of] our shop stewards, they [NUM shop stewards] believed that meeting with Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union [Amcu] would be a threat. The singing of songs, and others aimed at myself [only emphasised this].”

Describing his abortive visit to the mountain on August 15 – the eve of the massacre – Zokwana said he saw crouching leaders as if they were busy in a conversation. “When they were called forward to speak to the delegation in the nyala, nobody came forward but they moved back and said we must come forward with the nyala. I picked up [on] a song that was sung after the killing of Chris Hani, but the words were now different,” he said referring to Le NUM Sizoyibulala Kanjani [How are we going to kill the NUM].

“The nyala moved forward and a striker said I can come out but if I am scared I must come out with five police officers. I was told by a policeman not to leave the nyala. The song grew louder … In all my years of working with mineworkers, I have never seen such an aggressive, threatening attitude.”

In answering whether the NUM would have been prepared to sit with Amcu at the negotiating table, Zokwana said that was not up to the NUM to decide. “Amcu would have been there if they met the thresholds.”

Zokwana's cross-examination continues tomorrow.  

View the original online publication here