JOHANNESBURG (miningweekly.com) – Police Casspirs ran over and crushed fleeing Lonmin mineworkers during the Marikana killings, Sociology Professor Peter Alexander alleged on Thursday.
Alexander, who holds the South African research chair in social change at the University of Johannesburg, told a ‘Behind Marikana’ seminar organised by the Society, Work and Development Institute (SWOP) of the University of the Witwatersrand that the largest number of deaths had not been captured by media television cameras.
He was part of a panel led by SWOP director Professor Karl von Holdt and including David van Wyk of the Bench Marks Foundation, as well as visiting platinum mineworkers Qumbula Mxambulo and Oscar Ndumbana, who are both members of the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU), a rival union to the long-standing National Union of Mineworkers (NUM).
Alexander said that many fleeing mineworkers had been killed well away from the television cameras and unseen by the public.
He said the charges that police had laid against mineworkers for killing 34 fellow mineworkers should now be dropped and instead the police should be put in the dock.
Ndumbana, who was dressed in AMCU apparel, told the panel through an interpreter that what was amazing to mineworkers who had witnessed the killings was that South African television had not shown pictures of what he called police “Hippo” vehicles running over workers and crushing them to death.
Alexander praised Thursdays’ article of Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer Greg Marinovich, on the Daily Maverick news website, in which he stated that at least 20 were killed out of the sight of the cameras.
Alexander said most mineworkers were running away from the bullets in different directions, but a large number of them ran towards a small koppie where it was possible to hide, but where he believed a large number of the killings took place.
He flashed pictures he had taken at the scene onto a large screen, which showed letters of the alphabet that police had painted on the ground in yellow as corpse markers.
With letters to ‘N’ having been found, Alexander estimated that at least 14 had been killed on the koppie.
“I have very little doubt in my own mind that this was straight-forward murder,” Alexander added.
Ndumbana described an incident in which it was claimed that NUM members had shot at approaching mineworkers, killing two, which was when the mineworkers assembled on Wonderkop, their main rendezvous and not the same, in Alexander's words, "killing koppie" towards which the workers had run after the police opened fire with live ammunition.
Later, when they decided to return to NUM offices to complain about the shootings, they were confronted by police, and three police officers were killed, Ndumbana told the seminar audience.
Cosatu affiliate support officer Jane Barrett, who emphasised that she was not talking in an official capacity, said many might not be aware of the fact that 11 of the workers who were killed on “that terrible day” were actually paid-up NUM members.
Barrett emphasised that the NUM statement on the day before the mass killings, which was criticised during the panel discussion, actually dealt with an investigation into the ten deaths that had taken place before the tragedy, which included the death of two NUM members whose lips and tongues had been cut out.
SWOP's Chrispen Chinguno delivered a paper on strike violence and Asanda Benya on women in underground mining.
Von Holdt is one of the 26 members of the National Planning Commission headed by chairperson Trevor Manuel, the Minister in The Presidency Responsible for the National Planning Commission.