Lonmin should be held responsible for people killed at its Marikana mining operations in the North West in August 2012, the Farlam Commission of Inquiry heard on Wednesday.
“We are going to argue that the Lonmin policy of refusing to speak to the workers was responsible for 41 of the 44 deaths,” Dali Mpofu, for wounded and arrested mine workers, told the commission in Pretoria.
“The toxic collusion between Lonmin and [the SA Police Service] was responsible for over 39 of the deaths,” Mpofu said.
He was cross-examining Lonmin security risk manager Dirk Botes.
The three-member commission, chaired by retired judge Ian Farlam, is probing the deaths of 44 people during the violent wage-related strike at Lonmin’s platinum mine in Marikana, near Rustenburg.
Thirty-four people, mostly striking miners, were shot dead, 78 were wounded, and about 250 arrested on August 16, 2012, while police attempted to disperse and disarm them.
In the preceding week, 10 people, including two policemen and two security guards, were killed in strike-related violence.
Mpofu said he did not imply that Botes be held responsible for Lonmin management’s “hard-line stance or political pressure which induced police brutality” at Marikana.
Botes told the inquiry on Tuesday he participated in the police joint operations centre set up at Lonmin during the unrest. He said he also attended joint operational co-ordinating committee meetings.
Mpofu said Botes was the “agent” in the “collusion” between police and Lonmin.
“The contention I am going to put is that the discrepancies in Lonmin occurrence logbooks are a result of doctoring the records in order to mislead the commission. I am going to put it that it is higher than [likely] the books are incorrect. Just like the SAPS, you were deliberately concealing evidence,” said Mpofu.
Farlam urged Mpofu to argue his case without referring to the police’s position.
“You are not questioning this witness about what the SAPS was doing. You don’t have to make such statements as you go along, such statements get picked up by the media,” said Farlam.
Mpofu responded: “How can you say that when I am questioning a witness. This is not a game, people died. That is grossly unfair and I would want it withdrawn.”
Farlam said he would not retract his statement and urged Mpofu to “lower the temperature”.
Mpofu went on: “I will take it up at a higher level. You are the one raising the temperature. You are making outrageous accusations against me. This is not a television show.”
Ishmael Semenya, SC, for the police, said it was unfair for Mpofu to make the assertion as if it has been proved by the commission.
Mpofu continued with his cross-examination.
“The meaning of that collusion is that both those parties [Lonmin and SAPS] are guilty of the deaths that I have outlined.
“If those parties are guilty, I am going to argue that both those parties are responsible for concealing evidence. If you are innocent, you don’t conceal evidence,” he said.
“The concealment of evidence by any party accused of wrongdoing is an admission of guilt. That is the charge I am going to make to both the parties that I said are in that collusion.”
On Tuesday, evidence leader Matthew Chaskalson told the inquiry Lonmin had tried to hide an incident where mine security guards shot rubber bullets at strikers at the National Union of Mineworkers’ (NUM) offices at Lonmin’s Marikana operations.
Shots were fired during the altercation between protesting miners and NUM officials at the NUM’s office at the mine on August 11, 2012. Several protesters were wounded.
Chaskalson said there were several discrepancies in the events recorded in Lonmin’s occurrence logbooks.
Farlam said these discrepancies needed explaining.