20 February 2013

South Africa: Police Blocked Path to Settlement - Witness

A survivor of last year's Marikana tragedy had a grilling at the Commission of Inquiry today. Lonmin - rock drill operator, Si-phete Phasha, was ... ( Resource: A Survivor of Last Year's Marikana Tragedy Grilled at Commission

Rustenburg — Police nyalas blocked the path of striking miners who were trying to escape into Nkaneng informal settlement, a wounded miner told the Farlam Commission of Inquiry on Wednesday.

Siphete Phatsha said, through an interpreter, that he and other striking Lonmin workers were assembled on a hill on August 16 when they noticed a nyala trying to "close us in".

"We left immediately. The idea was to proceed towards [Nkaneng]. We found police had closed our way."

Phatsha said the miners, who were being sprayed with teargas and by a police water cannon, ran towards the kraal.

Two or three nyalas had outstripped the miners and blocked their way, but they ran behind a kraal. When they emerged, they were fired on with live ammunition, he said.

"I jumped over people who had fallen down and went through the kraal and out the other side."

Phatsha said at this point he felt pain in his foot and realised he had been shot.

"The injured toe was impeding my movements and getting caught by stones and plants on the ground," he said in a statement.

He amputated what was left of his toe with a bush knife.

"I sat down, cut off that piece and I was able to run after that."

He tied a piece of cloth around the stump as a makeshift tourniquet.

Phatsha said at the small hill, he saw other protesters surrendering to the police.

"They were raising their hands and asking for forgiveness....They were being shot at."

He joined a group which was being arrested. A policeman later told him and two others that they needed medical treatment. They were taken to hospital.

Earlier, Phatsha described his job as a rock drill operator as dangerous.

In August, he earned around R5 000, including a "sleep out" allowance.

The commission is probing the deaths of 44 people during an unprotected strike at Lonmin Platinum's mine in Marikana, North West, last year.

On August 16, 34 striking mineworkers were shot dead and 78 were injured when the police opened fire while trying to disperse a group which had gathered on a hill near the mine.

Ten people, including two police officers and two security guards, were killed near the mine in the preceding week.

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