‘It is a Reign of Terror’
The re-arrest of Lonmin mineworkers who are valuable witnesses to the Marikana shooting has been called a ‘reign of terror’ at the Farlam commission.
The Lonmin mineworkers who survived a police shooting in Marikana on August 16 are the only people able to give an account different to that of the police of what happened that day, the Farlam commission heard on Monday.
Advocate Dali Mpofu, for the injured and arrested miners, was complaining about the re-arrest of four of his clients on October 23, in connection with killings around the Marikana hostel. They were on their way back from the inquiry at the time.
"Not only does this deprive us of witnesses... but is a reign of terror," Mpofu told the commission's chairman, retired judge Ian Farlam.
"Our clients are the only people who are able to give us information about what happened on August 16 that is not from the SAPS [SA Police Service]. Mr [Dumisa] Ntsebeza's clients are deceased," he said.
"Our participation is being rendered blunt."
Thirty-four miners were killed in the police shooting and 78 were wounded. Another 275 were arrested.
Mpofu said there were allegations that those arrested were assaulted, tortured and manhandled, which was making it difficult for him to convince his clients to attend the inquiry. They were scared the same would happen to them.
He said that, according to the charge sheet, the four men were arrested in connection with murders on August 12, which fell into the commission's terms of reference.
On Friday, during their bail hearing, the magistrate struck the matter from the roll pending the outcome of the inquiry.
However, the four men were not released from custody, said Mpofu.
"Within minutes of this, our [lawyers] went down to the cells. Our people were re-arrested."
Mpofu said it was worrying that there were police officers the Independent Police Investigative Directorate had called "murder suspects".
"The fact that these murder suspects are roaming the street... they haven't even been suspended," he said.
Tim Bruinders, for the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu), said he was relying on Mpofu's clients for statements about what happened on August 16.
"Our team cannot participate in the way we want to if our [Amcu] members are arrested and treated this way," he said.
"They feel hugely intimidated and reluctant to meet with us to complete statements."
Bruinders said his legal team had obtained only three of the four statements it needed.
"It doesn't take a lot in adding up that this is a campaign of intimidation. We can come to a practical arrangement... so we don't have this guerrilla warfare between police and us," he said.