19 June 2014

South Africa: Marikana Miners, Families Face Mr. X

Photo: Sapa
Protesters gather on the lawns below the Union Buildings in Pretoria in an attempt to get state funding for legal counsel at the inquiry investigating strike-related violence at Marikana (file photo).

Pretoria — The face of mysterious witness dubbed Mr X was revealed for the first time at the Farlam Commission of Inquiry in Pretoria on Thursday.

Gasps and whispers were heard in the Tshwane municipal auditorium where the commission is holding public hearings into the 2012 Marikana shooting.

Families of slain mineworkers, mineworkers who survived the shooting, and relatives of killed mine security guards watched intently as the witness appeared on big screens. He may not be named to protect his identity.

Commission chairman, retired Judge Ian Farlam, started proceedings by repeating the conditions to be followed, in line with his ruling made in April, on Mr X's testimony.

He said the witness would give evidence to the commission in camera from an undisclosed location.

"I make the following rulings: that the members of the media may not publish the name of Mr X or any other information which may reveal his identity.

"All video recordings of the evidence of Mr X must be blurred out so as not to disclose his identity," said Farlam.

Members of the public could listen to an audio transmission of the commission's proceedings from an overflow room when Mr X testified.

A member of the commission's evidence leaders' team would always be in the room where Mr X testified from.

"Only the commissioners [of the inquiry], the parties, the legal representatives, evidence leaders, and accredited media representatives shall be present in the auditorium during the testimony of Mr X," said Farlam.

His ruling followed an application by the police seeking the protection of Mr X, owing to safety concerns.

In March, Sesi Baloyi, for the police, said Mr X was under witness protection and would be in danger if his identity was revealed or published.

"There is a real concern that his testimony before this commission may expose him and his family to harm. As things stand, Mr X is under witness protection," she said at the time.

Mr X claims he was one of the group of protesting Marikana miners who underwent a ritual, which included two sangomas burning live sheep and swallowing their ashes on August 11, 2012.

In Mr X's sworn statement he details how the mineworkers attacked and killed Lonmin security guards Hassan Fundi and Frans Mabelani.

Some of Hassan's body parts were removed and taken with Mabelani's ashes for use in muti rituals, according to Mr X.

He details how sangomas cut parts of Fundi into smaller pieces, mixed them with blood, and burnt them to ashes.

"We were instructed by the inyangas [traditional healers] to stand in a line and the ashes were put in our mouth using a spoon which we licked and swallowed," Mr X wrote in his affidavit.

"After this, the inyangas told us that they had accomplished their mission in protecting us from police bullets, made us fearless, strong, and invisible to the police."

Mr X narrates how he and other protesters attacked and killed two police officers on August 13. He said they robbed the officers of their cellphones and service firearms.

The inquiry is investigating the deaths of 44 people during strike-related violence at Lonmin's platinum mining operations at Marikana, near Rustenburg, North West.

Thirty-four people, mostly striking mineworkers, were shot dead in a clash with police, over 70 were wounded, and another 250 arrested on August 16, 2012. Police were apparently trying to disarm and disperse them.

In the preceding week, 10 people, including the two policemen and two security guards, were killed.

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