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South Africa: "A travesty of justice" -- miners charged with murder after police kill 34; Metalworkers condemn state murder


The Democratic Left Front's Vishwas Satgar interviewed on the Real News Network, August 31, 2012. Transcript below DLF statement. More at The Real News.

STOP PRESS, September 2, 2012 -- Following national and international outrage, South African prosecutors have provisionally dropped murder charges against 270 miners whose 34 colleagues were massacred by police. Acting national director of prosecutions for the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) Nomgcobo Jiba said that after having sought an explanation from the department's lead prosecutors, she had taken the decision to review the charge.

A final decision would be taken on the charges after a series of investigations into the shootings had delivered their findings. The workers have been held in custody since they were arrested on the day of the shooting -- August 16 -- at Lonmin's mine in Marikana, northwest of Johannesburg. Courts will start releasing them after police verify their addresses. The first batch of at least 140 miners is due to be freed on September 3 while the rest should go home on September 6.

Despite earlier blaming the workers for the massacre, the ANC government under pressure demanded the prosecutors explain why the arrested miners had been charged with murdering their colleagues, who had been shot dead by police. The Congress of South African Trade Unions said “The overwhelming condemnation from all over the world persuaded the NPA to come to its senses, to drop the charges and release those that were arrested.”

* * *

By the Democratic Left Front

August 30, 2012 -- The Democratic Left Front (DLF) is shocked, disgusted and angered by the decision of the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) to charge the 270 workers from the Lonmin platinum mine in Marikana currently in custody with the murder of their 34 fellow workers, comrades and strikers who were callously mowed down by the South African Police Service on August 16, 2012.

The NPA has the audacity to justify this decision on the basis of the common law doctrine of common purpose where “suspects with guns or any weapons and they confront or attack the police and a shooting takes place and there are fatalities” (as stated to the BBC by an NPA spokesperson Frank Lesenyego). Infamously, the common purpose charge was last used in a high profile case by the apartheid regime with the Upington 6 case. So much for all the last week's meaningless platitudes and crocodile tears over the Lonmin massacre from the African National Congress and government!

Clearly, President Jacob Zuma’s judicial commission of inquiry has been rendered irrelevant by this charge. Why waste money on a judicial commission when the state has already decided that the workers are responsible for having themselves shot at and their comrades killed by the police? What a travesty of justice! This amounts to cynical cruelty and a flagrant contempt for truth. This opens the door to an official cover-up of the publicly witnessed shooting of the striking workers by the police.

Already, there has been wanton destruction of evidence at the crime scene. All this, together with today’s problematic decision of the Garankuwa Magistrate’s Court to grant the state permission to postpone the bail application of the workers for another seven days. These workers have been in jail for more than 15 days. All this militates against a fair trial of these workers.

On the basis of a doctrine of common affront, and solidarity, the DLF calls on all people in South Africa who stand for the truth and social justice to all line up at police stations demanding to be charged with murder. We call for this action for September 6 when the arrested workers next appear in court.

The DLF calls on the NPA to withdraw the charges of common purpose against the Lonmin workers. The DLF calls on the NPA to lay charges of murder against the police. We say no to a police cover-up. We say no to a judicial commission of enquiry that will whitewash the police.

The DLF calls for solidarity and the mobilisation of all legal, financial and other resources in order to ensure effective legal assistance to the charged workers as well as to ensure that the stories, voices and interests of the affected workers and communities are effectively heard in a transparent and unbiased process. The DLF reaffirms its support for an independent commission of enquiry as endorsed by various Marikana solidarity campaigns launched in Johannesburg and Cape Town in the last week.

Striking miners charged with murder after police kill 34

Paul Jay interviews Vishwas Satgar

August 31, 2012 -- Real News Network

On August 16 in South Africa, at the Lonmin mine in Marikana, police killed 34 miners who were on strike amongst hundreds in a confrontation with police. A postmortem exam, according to a local television station, revealed that most of the miners killed were shot in the back while they were fleeing police, not as they were, according to the police, about to surround and attack the police.

Now there have been charges laid for these murders. Two hundred and seventy miners were charged in the deaths, and no policemen.

Joining us to help us make sense of all of this is Vishwas Satgar. He's a grassroots activist in South Africa for the past 28 years and he's a senior lecturer at the University of Witwatersrand. And he's recently helped form something called Solidarity with the Marikana Minors. Thanks for joining us.

Paul Jay: So lead us through the basic story here first of all, just to kick it off. If I understand it correctly, miners were on strike for higher wages. There is a division within the unions. There's a newer, more militant union and an older, people would say, less militant union allied with the ANC government, and this confrontation develops. So give us the context of what happened, and then we'll get into how it is that the miners get charged and not the police.

Vishwas Satgar: Yeah. I mean, all these essential facts you point to are key, but we just need to take a step back to sort of August 9, when workers at this particular mine, particularly the rock drillers, came together to really think crucially about their work situation and then, of course, make a demand to the management. The management response to their immediate demand for higher wages was to suggest some kind of minimal back pay. In the minds of the workers this really meant that, you know, this mine was a cash cow and, you know, the management could respond in a more serious way to this substantive proposal.

This then snowballed since August 9, with the workers first marching to the National Union of Mineworkers office, which many of these workers were members of and probably still are. On their way to the offices of the National Union of Mineworkers, they were shot at, according to, and allegedly, by members of the National Union of Mineworkers. This led to the death of two workers.

Subsequently this just spirals. Two security guards are killed. Two policemen are killed. Another six workers are killed.

And then the infamous day of August 16, where the workers gather on a location, on a little mountain, what is called a koppie in South Africa, close or adjacent to the mine. The mine calls in a rival union to the National Union of Mineworkers called AMCU and basically tries to get AMCU to try and pull these workers off the koppie and get them back in to work. AMCU tries. They go and speak to the workers. And that is unsuccessful. The National Union of Mineworkers also around this time tries to speak to these workers.

And one of the issues, material facts here that rarely comes out in the sort of witness accounts and the narrative by the workers themselves is that they were addressed by the president of the National Union of Mineworkers while he was inside a police armored vehicle. And that really also irked them and angered them, and while in a context in which they were completely surrounded on this hilltop.

Subsequently, it would seem—and this is based on an academic reconstruction of what happened on August 16 done by a professor at the University of Johannesburg. He essentially went to the site and interviewed various workers and witnesses and put together the sequence of things. And what seems to emerge from this picture is that the police surrounded these workers, they put barbed wire fence, razor wire fence around the perimeter, they left a very narrow opening for these workers, and basically opened fire with tear gas and rubber bullets. The workers then ran for the one and only opening they could see in the barbed wire fence.

Now, a lot of media coverage shows this particular scene and it comes across as though the police are on the retreat and the workers are attacking offensively. But actually it's seen from—according to the professor at the University of Johannesburg, this was the only opening left for those workers. And at least about ten of them were gunned down at that entrance or that opening.

Now, there are other kind of bits of information coming together and are now beginning to come to light in the public arena. It would seem that most of the workers ran in the opposite direction while—from the top of the koppie or the mountain, and they were then gunned down systematically in cold blood in different locations. A journalist link to the Maverick magazine today has basically carefully documented the various sites where these workers were killed and basically has put out the story that, you know, in the difficult rocky crevices and so on, this is where mineworkers were shot. At the same time, there are reports coming out increasingly from eyewitness accounts that many of these workers were also run over by police motorized or armored vehicles. So this is basically the kind of picture that's beginning to emerge around the facts and the details.

This seems systematic. It seems like the police were given—what's the word?—some direction on this. Or should I say, does it seem police [were] out of control? But it seems like there's more going on here than that.

Well, on August 17—and this, again, is according to newspaper accounts and some eyewitness accounts that the senior police commissioner of the area basically made a public statement that they were going to stop the strike. In addition, the National Union of Mineworkers made a public call on national radio and national news for the police to intervene and deal with the situation and the violence. So the kind of perception created is that this clearly was an orchestrated, a planned sort of attack by the police.

Also, just the precision around which they kind of surrounded the whole area, the way they kind of intervened, the kind of firepower—I mean, you know, there were helicopters, there were armored vehicles, I mean, just many, many police in the area. And apparently, according to even the head, the president of AMCU, who spoke at a public meeting, he was quite taken aback by the scale at which the police were handling this operation. Initially, after he made his appeal to the workers to come down and end the strike, they walked away from the situation and they passed what seemed like a very sophisticated sort of command center.

Okay. So I don't quite get this, what happened on Thursday, then. We have evidence that the postmortem examination of the bodies are that most of the miners that were killed were actually running away. You say there's evidence now from this professor that they were actually sort of kettled, in a way, with barbed wire and led towards the police. And then the miners get charged, 270 miners get charged with the deaths of the other miners. What's the logic there?

Well, actually, it's illogical, but it does point to a deepening crisis of our postapartheid democracy. There are four elements to the state response post the Marikana massacre. The first response has been to continue a heavy police presence in and around the communities that make up the Marikana area. And that has also led to a lot of police harassment.

The second element of the response has been the state president of the country, Jacob Zuma, announcing a judicial commission of inquiry, headed up by three judges. He's defined the terms of reference, which is important, but also has certain limitations.

The third element has been [for] the state to call for a peace court process. Right now in the town of Rustenburg is an attempt by the minister of labor to sit down with the unions and hammer out some kind of peace agreement.

The fourth element in this whole equation has been the charging of the mine workers that are currently in police custody with the murder of their colleagues.

Now, this all really doesn't add up. Increasingly, it would seem that what's at heart of the state response is really an attempt to stop the kind of demands, the kind of worker militancy from spreading throughout the platinum belts right now. So there's a lot of doublespeak coming out of government. It doesn't add up, it doesn't make sense, and really the government is not contributing to a climate of trust. There is deep skepticism on the ground within the community about the intentions of the South African [crosstalk]

And what are these miners actually charged with?

Well, that's the thing. They're charged with the murder of their 34 colleagues.

But they use some law about—that because they were there in common purpose, they created the scene where the police shot—they're responsible. I mean, it's something along these lines?

Yeah. I mean, it's—I'm no lawyer, but, I mean, clearly they're trying to kind of construct a legal argument or a legal case, you know, trying to kind of, you know, pin it on them collectively. They had a common intention, a common purpose.

But, you know, again, this—the whole thing about the charging is embroiled in a larger kind of political battle. The workers themselves went to the police station, and this together with Julius Malema, the former Youth League president in South Africa, ANC Youth League president, and he, together with the workers, charged the police for murder. Now, it would seem that the state response is a counter to this, and it's really beginning to become a tit-for-tat issue, sadly, in this situation.

Metalworkers' union: 'first post-apartheid state massacre ... in defence of the local and international mining bosses and their profits'

Statement by the central committee of the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA) on the Marikana massacre

September 2, 2012 -- As stated above, the CC met against the backdrop of a world in crisis, with the glaring manifestations of the inherent chronic failures of capitalism in our country and internationally, which are now firmly anchored in the heartland of capitalism itself – in the United States (US) and western Europe. This ugly reality of capitalist barbarity, combined with our untransformed colonial economy and society, has sharply worsened the conditions of the working class and the poor, as evidenced by daily violent service delivery protests in our communities, and growing dissenting voices against the system,demanding housing, water, food, decent jobs and free education for the working class and the poor.

The situation is socially and economically very traumatic among the millions of our youths who cannot find work.

This is the global and national context which explains the Marikana massacre – a worsening global and local capitalist economy which increasingly will resort to bloody violence to “discipline” the working class in order to defend its falling profits.

The CC expressed its deep and heartfelt condolences to the families and friends of the workers that perished in Marikana.

The CC condemned the intransigence and insensitivity of the mine bosses towards the mining workers, and the savage, cowardly actions and excessive force used by the police, which invariably led to the deaths of 44 workers,including the police massacre of 34. Many workers were injured. The CC holds the view that organs of class rule, particularly the police, should not be used recklessly and violently to intervene in industrial disputes involving workers and bosses.

The CC was adamant that what happened in Marikana should be correctly understood, and must go down in our history as the first post-apartheid South African state massacre of the organised working class, in defence of the local and international mining bosses and their profits.

The CC called on the working class and poor not to be fooled and blinded by anyone, but to understand that in a capitalist state or class divided country like South Africa, the state will always act in the interests of the dominant class: the class that owns, control and commands the economy, political and social life. This is, after all, the real reason for the existence of any state!

In the South African case, we understand the dominant capitalist class to be centred on the minerals/energy/finance complex and axis. We are therefore not surprised that the post 1994 South African state and government – a state and government whose strategic task and real reason for existence is the defence and sustenance of the minerals/energy/finance complex -- will do anything to defend the property rights and profits of this class, including slaughtering the working class.

While the CC supports the commission of inquiry as announced by head of state and leader of the African National Congress (ANC) Comrade Jacob Zuma, we believe that the commission must act in the interest of uncovering the whole truth surrounding the unfortunate deaths of the 44 workers. Anything short of this will render the commission useless.

To safeguard the working class in this front of struggle, the NUMSA central committee proposes that COSATU together with revolutionary formations of the working class constitute their own independent commission of inquiry, because going forward, the bourgeoisie and its apologists will in one way or the other use the Marikana tragedy to heighten the already active ideological and repressive offensive against the growing militancy of the working class at the point of production and in communities at large.

Our militancy is not borne out of our biological makeup, but is a result of the perpetual failures of the capitalist system to resolve the problems our class faces. The central committee further calls for the suspension of the task force that executed the massacre. The CC calls on the commission to find out and make public who, between the minister of police and the national police commissioner, gave orders to shoot workers with live bullets when they peacefully assembled on that fateful mountain in Marikana.

NUMSA is extremely disgusted by this display of police brutality. The actionsof the police confirm that we have not, post 1994, transformed the apartheid state and its violent machinery. The actions of the police make a mockery of everything else we thought was transformed, including parliament. By this singular act, the police have violently reminded us once again what Marx and Lenin taught us about the state: that it is always an organ of class rule and class oppression and that bourgeois democracy is nothing but the best political shell behind which the bourgeoisie hides its dictatorship.

The CC demands the dismissal of anyone in the police or in political office who led to the massacre of the workers.

No one can deny the most obvious fact: despite all the well-intentioned government reforms to mining and mining rights, the black working class on the mines are the most exploited, earn very little and live in squalor, while the mining bosses, both local and international, are reaping billions of dollars from our minerals.

Despite the reduced demand for platinum in western Europe and the US, we know that the three platinum companies Lonmin, Implats and Anglo Platinum in the last five years have registered operating profits of more than R160 billion.

While manufacturing industry has had to settle for an average profit margin of 8%, the mining companies have averaged 29%. In fact, in the boom years of 2006 to 2008, they averaged 41%. Their R160 billion profits would have built more than 3 million RDP houses. Instead they leave their employees to an impoverished existence in shacks and then express shock and horror when those workers decide they have had enough and refuse to work until they receive a slightly less meagre salary.

The mining bosses are not fit to control the mineral wealth of our country.

NUMSA is convinced that unless that mineral wealth of our country is returned to the people as a whole, mining will continue to be characterised by violence against the working class either, through dangerous working conditions or fromthe bullets of the police in defence of the profits of the mining bosses.

We see no solution to the violence against workers on the mines apart from nationalisation in defence of the lives of all South Africans.

The CC called for the immediate release of all the arrested Lonmin workers. We condemn in the strongest terms, the inhuman treatment and violence meted out to the detained workers. We see no reason why bail is being denied them.

The CC condemns in the strongest terms the National Prosecuting Authority’s prosecutorial strategy of charging the detained miners for the police murder of their fellow workers, and another five charges! We understand this devious strategy is designed simply to ensure that the trial of the detained workers will last a long time, during which they will be mentally, economically and socially punished and tortured.

The NPA has deployed the combined legal principles of common purpose and dolus enventualis to charge the Lonmin workers with murder. Murder is a crime which requires the intention to kill. Common purpose allows the prosecution of someone who was part of a group of people when a crime was committed, even if they didn’t commit it themselves. So the NPA is suggesting that the Lonmin mineworkers are guilty of murder because they were part of a group present when murder was committed.

But it was their fellow workers who were murdered. So the NPA is suggesting that these Lonmin mineworkers gathered together intending the deaths of their fellow workers. This is the most ludicrous charge. It is just another example of how the NPA seeks to delay the trial of the detained workers and thus punish them by prolonging their suffering at the hands of the state, in futility.

One need not be a lawyer to see that there is no rational, legal or moral basis for the use of these legal principles to accuse workers of murder because their fellow workers were killed by police in a riotous situation, triggered by the police, involving more than 3000 people!

By this act, the NPA has further supplied us with proof of why we are informed all evidence of police bullets at the scene was erased overnight!

The callous insensitivity demonstrated by the NPA in this instance further confirms our view of the state and all its machinery – that it is a means for the oppression and suppression of the working class in favour of the mining bosses.

An important lesson from the Marikana massacre for the working class is that unity of the organised working class is sacrosanct. Further, we all must do whatever it takes to ensure that we constantly promote that unity.

Comments

The cold murder fields of Marikana

(A very reliable reporter backtracks from conventional wisdom. A chilling read... "The majority of the dead in the 16 August massacre at Marikana appear to have been shot at close range or crushed by police vehicles.")
http://dailymaverick.co.za/article/2012-08-30-the-murder-fields-of-marikana-the-cold-murder-fields-of-marikana

Daily Maverick

The murder fields of Marikana. The cold murder fields of Marikana.
  •  Greg Marinovich

The majority of the dead in the 16 August massacre at Marikana appear to have been shot at close range or crushed by police vehicles. They were not caught in a fusillade of gunfire from police defending themselves, as the official account would have it. GREG MARINOVICH spent two weeks trying to understand what really happened. What he found was profoundly disturbing.

Of the 34 miners killed at Marikana, no more than a dozen of the dead were captured in news footage shot at the scene. The majority of those who died, according to surviving strikers and researchers, were killed beyond the view of cameras at a nondescript collection of boulders some 300 metres behind Wonderkop.

On one of these rocks, encompassed closely on all sides by solid granite boulders, is the letter ‘N’, the 14th letter of the alphabet. Here, N represents the 14th body of a striking miner to be found by a police forensics team in this isolated place. These letters are used by forensics to detail were the corpses lay.

There is a thick spread of blood deep into the dry soil, showing that N was shot and killed on the spot. There is no trail of blood leading to where N died – the blood saturates one spot only, indicating no further movement. (It would have been outside of the scope of the human body to crawl here bleeding so profusely.)

Approaching N from all possible angles, observing the local geography, it is clear that to shoot N, the shooter would have to be close. Very close, in fact, almost within touching distance. (After having spent days here at the bloody massacre site, it does not take too much imagination for me to believe that N might have begged for his life on that winter afternoon.)

Photo: At sites like 'N', all four sides are hemmed in by rock. (Greg Marinovich)

And on the deadly Thursday afternoon, N’s murderer could only have been a policeman. I say murderer because there is not a single report on an injured policeman from the day. I say murderer because there seems to have been no attempt to uphold our citizens’ right to life and fair recourse to justice. It is hard to imagine that N would have resisted being taken into custody when thus cornered. There is no chance of escape out of a ring of police.

Other letters denote equally morbid scenarios. J and H died alongside each other. They, too, had no route of escape and had to have been shot at close range.

Photo: J and H died alongside each other. (Greg Marinovich)

Other letters mark the rocks nearby. A bloody handprint stains a vertical rock surface where someone tried to support themselves standing up; many other rocks are splattered with blood as miners died on the afternoon of 16 August.

None of these events were witnessed by media or captured on camera. They were only reported on as component parts in the sum of the greater tragedy.

One of the striking miners caught up in the mayhem, let’s call him “Themba”, though his name is known to the Daily Maverick, recalled what he saw once he escaped the killing fields around Wonderkop.

“Most people then called for us to get off the mountain, and as we were coming down, the shooting began. Most people who were shot near the kraal were trying to get into the settlement; the blood we saw is theirs. We ran in the other direction, as it was impossible now to make it through the bullets.

“We ran until we got to the meeting spot and watched the incidents at the koppie. Two helicopters landed; soldiers and police surrounded the area. We never saw anyone coming out of the koppie.”

The soldiers he refers to were, in fact, part of the police task team dressed in camouflage uniforms, brought to the scene in a brown military vehicle. Asked about this, Themba said he believed people were hiding at the koppie, and police went in and killed them.

In the days after the shooting, Themba visited friends at the nearby mine hospital. “Most people who are in hospital were shot at the back. The ones I saw in hospital had clear signs of being run over by the Nyalas,” he said. “I never got to go to the mortuary, but most people who went there told me that they couldn’t recognise the faces of the dead (they were so damaged by either bullets of from being driven over).”

It is becoming clear to this reporter that heavily armed police hunted down and killed the miners in cold blood. A minority were killed in the filmed event where police claim they acted in self-defence. The rest was murder on a massive scale.

Peter Alexander, chair in Social Change and professor of Sociology at the University of Johannesburg, and two researchers interviewed witnesses in the days after the massacre. Researcher Botsong Mmope spoke to a miner, Tsepo, on Monday 20 August. Tsepo (not his real name) witnessed some of the events that occurred off camera.

“Tsepo said many people had been killed at the small koppie and it had never been covered (by the media). He agreed to take us to the small koppie, because that is where many, many people died,” Mmope said.

After the shooting began, Tsepo said, he was among many who ran towards the small koppie. As the police chased them, someone among them said, “Let us lie down, comrades, they will not shoot us then.”

“At that time, there were bullets coming from a helicopter above them. Tsepo then lay down. A number of fellow strikers also lay down. He says he watched Nyalas driving over the prostrate, living miners,” Mmope said. “Other miners ran to the koppie, and that was where they were shot by police and the army** with machine guns.” (** Several witnesses and speakers at the miners' gathering referring to the army, or amajoni, actually refer to a police task team unit in camouflage uniforms and carrying R5 semi-automatic files on the day. – GM)

When the firing finally ceased, Tsepo managed to escape across the veld to the north.

Photo: A map drawn by an eyewitness and a rsearcher shows the spatial context of the events of August 16, and also the sequence of them. Nkanini, Marikana, North West Province, South Africa,  27 August 2012. (Greg Marinovich)

It took several days for police to release the number of those killed. The number 34 surprised most of us. With only about a dozen bodies recorded by the media, where exactly had the remaining miners been killed, and how did they die?

Most journalists and others did not interrogate this properly. The violence of the deaths we could see, again and again, was enough to contend with. The police certainly did not mention what happened outside of the view of the cameras.

The toll of 112 mineworkers (34 dead and 78 wounded) at Marikana is one of those few bitter moments in our bloody history that has been captured by the unblinking eye of the lens. Several lenses, in fact, and from various viewpoints.

This has allowed the actions and reactions of both the strikers and the police to be scrutinised in ways that undocumented tragedies can never be. Therefore, while the motives and rationale of both parties will never be completely clear, their deeds are quite apparent.  

Thus developed a dominant narrative within the public discourse. The facts have been fed by the police, various state entities and by the media that the strikers provoked their own deaths by charging and shooting at the forces of law and order. Indeed, the various images and footage can be read to support this claim.

The contrary view is that the striking miners were trying to escape police rubber bullets and tear gas when they ran at the heavily armed police task team (our version of SWAT). The result was the horrific images of a dozen or so men gunned down in a fusillade of automatic fire.

From the outside the jumble of granite at Small Koppie, the weathered remains of a prehistoric hill, it would appear that nothing more brutal than the felling of the straggly indigenous trees for firewood occurred here.

Once within the outer perimeter, narrow passages between the weathered bushveld rocks lead into dead ends. Scattered piles of human faeces and toilet paper mark the area as the communal toilet for those in the miners’ shack community without pit toilets.

It is inside here, hidden from casual view, that the rocks bear the yellow letters methodically sprayed on by the forensic team to denote where they found the miners’ bodies. The letter N appears to take the death toll at this site to 14. Some of the other letters are difficult to discern, especially where they were sprayed on the dry grass and sand.

The yellow letters speak as if they are the voices of the dead. The position of the letters, denoting the remains of once sweating, panting, cursing, pleading men, tell a story of policemen hunting men like beasts. They tell of tens of murders at close range, in places hidden from the plain sight.

N, for example, died in a narrow redoubt surrounded on four sides by solid rock. His killer could not have been further than two meters from him – the geography forbids any other possibility.

Why did this happen? 

Photo: A satellite view of Wonderkop, the lighter coloured semi-circle to the lower right, and the Small Koppie, which is the more spread out feature to the left. The informal settlement of Nkaneng is to the far right. (Google Earth.)

Let us look back at the events of Monday, 13 August, three days prior to these events.

Themba, a second-generation miner from the Eastern Cape, was present then too. He was part of a group of some 30 strikers who were delegated to cross the veld that separated them from another Lonmin platinum mine, Karee.

It was at Karee mine that other rock drill operators led a wildcat strike to demand better wages. The National Union of Mineworkers did not support them, and management took a tough line. The strike was unsuccessful, with many of the strikers losing their jobs. The Marikana miners figured there were many miners there still angry enough to join them on Wonderkop.

The Marikana strikers never reached their fellow workers; instead, mine security turned them back and told them to return by a route different from the one they had come by.

On this road, they met a contingent of police. Themba said there were some 10 Nyalas and one or two police trucks or vans. The police barred their way and told them to lay down their weapons. The workers refused, saying they needed the pangas to cut wood, as they lived in the bush, and more honestly, that they were needed to defend themselves.

The Friday before, they said, three of their number had been killed by people wearing red NUM T-shirts.

The police line parted and they were allowed to continue, but once they were about 10 metres past, the police opened fire on them.

The miners turned and took on the police.

It was here, he said, that they killed two policemen and injured another. The police killed two miners and injured a third severely, from helicopter gunfire, Themba said. The miners carried the wounded man back to Wonderkop, where he was taken to hospital in a car. His fate is unknown.

Police spokesman Captain Dennis Adriao, when asked about the incident by telephone, said public order policing officers were attacked by miners, who hacked the two policemen to death and critically injured another. He said eight people had been arrested until then for that incident and for the 10 deaths prior to 16 August. “Two are in custody in hospital who were injured in the attack on the police.”

The police version of how this event took place is quite different from that of Themba, but what is clear is that the police had already arrested people for the murders committed thus far.

Why, then, the urgency to confront those among the thousands camped on Wonderkop in the days leading up to the massacre on 16 August?

But let us, in this article, not get too distracted by this obvious question, and return to the events of 16 August itself.

The South African Government Information website still carries this statement, dated from the day of the Marikana massacre:

“Following extensive and unsuccessful negotiations by SAPS members to disarm and disperse a heavily armed group of illegal gatherers at a hilltop close to Lonmin Mine, near Rustenburg in the North West Province, the South African Police Service was viciously attacked by the group, using a variety of weapons, including firearms. The Police, in order to protect their own lives and in self-defence, were forced to engage the group with force. This resulted in several individuals being fatally wounded, and others injured.”

This police statement clearly states that the police acted in self-defence, despite the fact that not a single policeman suffered any injury on 16 August.

And as we discussed earlier, it is possible to interpret what happened in the filmed events as an over-reaction by the police to a threat. What happened afterwards, 400 metres away at Small Koppie, is quite different. That police armoured vehicles drove over prostrate miners cannot be described as self-defence or as any kind of public order policing.

The geography of those yellow spray painted letters tells a chilling and damning story and lends greater credence to what the strikers have been saying.

One miner, on the morning after the massacre, told Daily Maverick that, “When one of our miners passed a Nyala, there was a homeboy of his from the Eastern Cape inside, and he told him that today was D-day, that they were to come and shoot. He said there was a paper signed allowing them to shoot us.”

The language reportedly used by the policeman is strikingly similar to that used by Adriao early on 16 August, and quoted on MineWeb: “We have tried over a number of days to negotiate with the leaders and with the gathering here at the mine, our objective is to get the people to surrender their weapons and to disperse peacefully.”

“Today is D-day in terms of if they don't comply then we will have to act ... we will have to take steps,” he said.

A little later he commented: “Today is unfortunately D-day,” police spokesman Dennis Adriao said. “It is an illegal gathering. We've tried to negotiate and we'll try again, but if that fails, we'll obviously have to go to a tactical phase.”

Speaking to the possible intention of the police, let us look at how the deployed police were armed. The weapons used by the majority of the more than 400 police on the scene were R5 (a licensed replica of the Israeli Galil SAR) or LM5 assault rifles, designed for infantry and tactical police use. These weapons cannot fire rubber bullets. The police were clearly deployed in a military manner – to take lives, not to deflect possible riotous behaviour.

The death of their comrades three days previously set the stage for the police, who have been increasingly accused of brutality, torture and death in detention, to exact their revenge. What is unclear is how high up the chain of command this desire went.

There has been police obfuscation and selective silence in a democratic society where the police are, theoretically, accountable to the citizenry, as well as to our elected representatives. We live in a country where people are assumed innocent until proven guilty; where summary executions are not within the police’s discretion.

Let us be under no illusion. The striking miners are no angels. They can be as violent as anyone else in our society. And in an inflamed setting such as at Marikana, probably more so. They are angry, disempowered, feel cheated and want more than a subsistence wage. Whatever the merits of their argument, and the crimes of some individuals among them, more than 3,000 people gathering at Wanderkop did not merit being vulnerable to summary and entirely arbitrary execution at the hands of a paramilitary police unit.

In light of this, we could look at the events of 16 August as the murder of 34 and the attempted murder of a further 78 who survived despite the police’s apparent intention to kill them.

Back at the rocks the locals dubbed Small Koppie, a wild pear flowers among the debris of the carnage and human excrement; a place of horror that has until now remained terra incognita to the public. It could also be the place where the Constitution of South Africa has been dealt a mortal blow. DM

Note: We have put these questions to the police and they state that they are unable to comment on, or give further detail regarding, to what happened at and around Small Koppie 13 August. We are awaiting comment from the IPID.

Read more:

  • “Marikana: What really happened? We may never know,” in the Daily Maverick
  • Police statement on 16 August events.

Main photo: Nkanini, Marikana, North West Province, South Africa,  27 August 2012. Yellow police paint marks where the bodies of some of the 34 men killed by police were recovered by forensics. Some of the rock crevices these bodies were found in, indicate that they had to have been hunted down and shot at close range. At sites like 'N', the copious amount of blood lost makes it plain that it was not a wounded person who managed to crawl there, but was someone shot and killed in that position, where all four sides are hemmed in by rock. Not a single policeman was reported wounded on August 16th. Photo Greg Marinovich

Marikana massacre: police shooting video footage

(what with cellphone cameras ubiquitous these days, it's hard to do massacre cover-ups)
http://www.channel4.com/news/marikana-massacre-police-shooting-video-footage

Channel 4 News shows police footage which appears to undermine claims officers were acting in self-defence over the shootings. Inigo Gilmore reports on the distressing footage and its implications.


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