PROBING: Lawyer George Bizos, second from left, wanted to know yesterday how the police would explain why the majority of slain mine workers had been shot in the back. Picture: Thapelo Morebudi
Veteran lawyer George Bizos says the Marikana massacre was an act of revenge by the police.
Presenting the case of the Legal Resources Centre at the Marikana Commission of Inquiry in Rustenburg yesterday, Bizos said it was a known fact that no danger was posed to the police by the 3000 miners who were engaged on the wage strike.
Speaking about the August 16 massacre, Bizos said: “How will the police explain that the majority of the wounds were on the backs? Who took the decision to use live ammunition?”
He said that the plan used by the police in Marikana was approved by both the minister and the national police commissioner.
The commission heard that police had erected barbed wire around the area where the workers were gathering, caging them in. When the workers saw the wire, they tried to get out through a small space to run to a nearby informal settlement. It was heard that on seeing that they were trying to escape, the police “mowed” them down with automatic rifles.
Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) lawyer Tim Bruindis said the unions wanted R12500 a month but the company went directly to workers offering a R750 allowance. Workers rejected the offer and Lonmin refused to negotiate further.
On August 11 when the workers marched to NUM’s offices, people from inside the offices shot at them, killing two workers. As a result, the workers decided to arm themselves and gathered at the “koppie” (hill) where they felt safe, said the lawyer.
The next day, they tried again to go to the NUM offices to try to discuss the previous day’s killing but were prevented from doing so by Lonmin security.
“Lonmin security shot and killed two workers. There was a scuffle and two security guards also died,” he said.
On August 13 workers who were on their way back to the koppie met the police who shot and killed two of them. Two policemen were hacked to death.
Two days later, Lonmin agreed to speak to the workers but withdrew on the morning of the massacre.
AMCU leader Joseph Mantunjwa tried in vain to get Lonmin to speak to them and get assistance from the police. He had no choice but to tell the miners that their employer was not interested in what they had to say.
Earlier that day, the provincial police commissioner told him it was “not his problem” that Lonmin and the workers were failing to resolve their issues.