1 September 2014

South Africa: Marikana Strike was Uncharacteristic - Lonmin

Photo: The Daily Vox
Miners gather to commemorate the second anniversary of the Marikana shooting (file photo).

Pretoria — Lonmin mine security had not expected protesting miners at Marikana in the North West to gather and strike on August 12, 2012, the Farlam Commission of Inquiry heard on Monday.

"Never had it happened that strikers would gather on a Sunday and have a go at the property. Previously, the strikers would rest and resume their action on a Monday," Lonmin mining security manager Henry Mntunaye Blou said.

"Up to that point, my thinking was that the strikers, as they were gathering, would just have a dance to show force and would disperse."

Blou was cross-examined by Karel Tip, for the National Union of Mineworkers, at the inquiry's public hearings in Pretoria.

"We already know that by 10 August [2012] you and Mr Sinclair registered that this was an unusually large number of strikers and that their mood was unusually threatening," said Tip.

"Didn't you have to displace your views about what happened in the past? Should you have anticipated the worst? Isn't that your duty and what scenario planning is about?"

Blou responded: "We were caught by surprise. We were caught unawares. We never anticipated that Lonmin employees would be armed on a Sunday."

Commission chairman retired judge Ian Farlam said Blou was not answering the question.

Tip said if Blou realised that the protesters' behaviour was uncharacteristic, the security should have implemented special measures for the "uncharted territory".

Blou responded: "We should have done that. On Friday when the strikers were dispersing, we were walking among them. On Saturday, after the attack at Wonderkop, our teams were also walking in and among the strikers."

"On Sunday morning, we were still of the view that we had a good rapport and that the strikers would listen and again listen to us as has been history. I believe we should have taken a different view, we did not."

Lonmin guards, Frans Mabelani and Hassan Fundi were killed during a confrontation with the strikers on August 12, a Sunday. In that week, eight other people -- two policemen and mineworkers -- were killed in unrest related to the strike.

The commission, chaired by Farlam, is investigating the deaths of 44 people killed during the strike-related unrest in August 2012.

Thirty-four people, mostly striking mineworkers, were shot dead in a clash with police on August 16, 2012.

Over 70 people were wounded and over 200 were arrested. Police were apparently trying to disperse them.

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