The South African Federation has noted the shocking testimony given to City Press (11 February 2018) by police officers who were among those at Marikana on 16 August 2012 when 34 mine workers were killed and 112 injured.
This is the day the ANC government chose which class interests it will serve between workers demanding a living wage and a minimum wage of R12 500 and the mining oligarchs exploiting the working class. Of course the state chose the side of the ruling class and killed workers mercilessly.
The officers’ evidence confirms beyond any doubt that this event was pre-meditated murder, ordered, planned and approved by police, employers and government. It totally demolishes any argument that the police were acting spontaneously or in self-defence.
As one of the officers says: “We were instructed to finish them off. I don’t know why, but it was a command, and we were trained to obey commands and not ask questions.”
SAFTU demands the immediate arrest of those all those in government, Lonmin and police management who planned, organized and approved this murder. They including former National Police Commissioner Riah Phiyega, former Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa, former Mining Minister Susan Shabangu and former President Jacob Zuma, must be arrested and charged with murder.
Cyril Ramaphosa, using his influence in the ANC, called for the “concomitant action” and labeled the strike “plainly dastardly criminal”. So said a man who had championed the rights of mine workers before, but once he crossed the class divide and participated in the class oppression and exploitation made a 360 degree turn. He too can’t escape with a lousy apology. He is as guilty as those who under pressure from him organized the brutal killing of workers.
Constable Itumeleng Ntsileng from the police’s K9 Unit was at Scene 2, where officers pursued and killed the workers minutes after their colleagues gunned down workers at the koppie (Scene 1).
He recalled how a special task force officer killed a mine worker who had been hiding behind some rocks. “The mine worker begged the officer not to kill him. He called out to the officer, saying: ‘Ungangibulali baba, ungangibulali baba [Don’t kill me sir, don’t kill me].’ But he was shot at close range with an R5 rifle while cowering behind the rock, begging for his life. There was no need for that guy to die like that”.
“I understand killing someone in self-defence, but when I saw the man hiding behind the rocks being shot at close range, it took its toll on my sanity. I couldn’t fathom that a human being could be killed in such a manner, especially when the life of the police officer was not in danger.”
Lesego*, another former K9 Unit officer, spoke of how his partner shot a worker wearing a Basotho blanket. “He shot several of the protesters in their thighs. Then he finished the job by shooting them in the head. At one point, he looked at one of the men who was running away and said in Sesotho: ‘Ke Mosotho! Ke ya mohula enwa! [He is a Mosotho! I’m killing this one]. The Mosotho man was old. All he did was dart for cover. My partner shot him and he fell. It made my stomach churn. When you kill someone, it haunts you for the rest of your life. It was horrible, horrible, horrible”.
“I saw lots and lots of corpses that day. There were people who were still alive. We were instructed to finish them off. I don’t know why, but it was a command, and we were trained to obey commands and not ask questions. I didn’t shoot anyone.”
After the massacre, Ntsileng said, the police officers involved had to attend a parade, where, he alleges their superiors told them they were not allowed to speak to the media, or tell their friends and family what happened before or after the shooting.
“We were told that if we talk to the media, or divulge information to a third party, we will be charged and dismissed. The Marikana Commission of Inquiry wanted people to give evidence of the shootings. But we knew that, after giving evidence, our jobs would be on the line”.
Further conclusive evidence of pre-planning is revealed by Lesego who said there were about six special task force officers at the scene. “They were shooting to kill; they weren’t playing. The special task force members were brought to Marikana in the morning and they left in the evening in a chopper. During the bombardment, they drove in something that looked like a Hummer. The guy in the vehicle who did the shooting was stationed on top of the vehicle. These special task force members did what they were there to do and left. Afterwards, there was no accountability for what they’d done. It was kept a secret.”
The Marikana Commission of Inquiry, headed by Judge Ian Farlam, found that just days after the massacre, former national police commissioner Riah Phiyega, former police minister Nathi Mthethwa and Brigadier Adriaan Calitz heaped praise on the police.
“These comments were inappropriate and were made with the intention of encouraging the police to protect each other [close ranks] by denying mistakes, withholding information from the commission and lying,” the commission found. Only the shootings at Scene 1 were reported to the public. The shootings at Scene 2 were covered up.”
SAFTU demands that the Commission of Inquiry be reconvened to hear this evidence from these new witnesses and, we hope, from others who will now be prepared to come forward.
No-one involved is this massacre must be allowed to escape justice and severe punishment for their role. It was a deliberate and ruthless attempt by a capitalist employer, Lonmin, in collusion with government and SAPS leaders, to drive striking workers back to work, kill those who resist and teach other workers not to follow the Marikana workers’ example.
Whilst we welcome the arrest of the alleged perpetrators of recent inter-union violence in the Marikana area, as announced by the Minister of Police, Fikile Mbalula, SAFTU is angry that there have been no arrests of the those who planned the 2012 massacre of workers and who are being left scot free. This why a perception has deepened that justice system in the country and the capitalist world only punishes those without power and money.
As we face new threats in the Labour Relations Amendment Bill to use compulsory arbitration to curb workers’ constitutional right to withdraw their labour, it is more vital than ever to stand up and fight for workers’ rights. They are workers and not slaves.
*Not their real names