Mbombo said Mathunjwa was wrong in saying she had left Lonmin’s volatile mine before the shootings in Marikana on August 16, 2012, to attend an African National Congress torch-bearing ceremony with the provincial premier.
Ishmael Semenya, SC, for the police, led Mbombo in submitting her evidence at the commission’s public hearings in Pretoria.
“You say after you received a briefing that the strikers have not put their weapons down, you gave an instruction that they must be dispersed, disarmed and arrested. After that you left the JOC [joint operations committee] and proceeded where?
“Mr Mathunjwa’s evidence is that you were leaving to attend a torch-bearing ceremony of the ANC,” said Semenya.
Mbombo replied: “That is a blue lie. I have not been involved at any torch-bearing ceremony of the ANC. I knew at the time that there was such an event in my province.
“I remembered that I had not had the chance of seeing Lt [Shimatu] Baloyi who had been injured during the confrontation [with protesters] on Monday (August 13, 2012). I then left and went to Rustenburg Hospital to see him.”
Testifying in isiXhosa, Mbombo disputed claims that her actions were irresponsible.
“I was working there with people who are vastly knowledgeable, able to do the job we were doing. I did not leave just because of being irresponsible. I knew I left people who knew what to do and had dealt with the problem since the beginning.”
Mbombo said that after visiting the hospital she went to the JOC and was briefed by senior officers. She said she “was around” when the 34 striking miners were shot dead.
Commission chairman, retired judge Ian Farlam, said allegations that she had acted irresponsibly could not be correct.
“The point is that you came back before the operation commenced. Any criticism that you went away while the operation was going on is therefore not correct. Is that so?”
In November 2012, Mathunjwa told the inquiry that before the shootings he had felt “betrayed” by police and Lonmin management. Mathunjwa testified that after addressing workers on a hill in Marikana on August 16, he went to the JOC to give feedback.
“We wanted to see the provincial commissioner, Madam Mbombo, because in the morning we had been told, and she confirmed, that she was now in charge of the operation,” he said.
“We later saw [deputy provincial police commissioner] Lt-Gen [William] Mpembe. He told us that she was not around. He said she had gone to an ANC torch-lighting ceremony with the North West premier.”
Mathunjwa said the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union’s delegation had sought answers from Mpembe about why Mbombo left at such a critical moment.
“I wanted to know how can she just leave? In the morning she had been harsh to me,” Mathunjwa said.
“He [Mpembe] said he would want to contact her by phone. He moved away from us, went away and he never came back.”
Mathunjwa said he had wanted to convey the situation at the hill to the senior policewoman.
“I then phoned [Lonmin mine executive Jomo] Kwadi. He said he wanted to consult with the mine management.”
Mathunjwa said Kwadi called back and said management was not willing to meet him to discuss the workers’ requests. According to Mathunjwa, Kwadi said the protesters’ concerns should be conveyed to the police.
Mathunjwa testified: “I responded by saying ‘Are you insane?’ What substance have you taken? Can’t you take a glass of water to be sober?
“He never responded. He switched off his phone. I called another Lonmin executive, but he said he was not involved in the processes.”
Moments later, police opened fire on the protesters, killing 34 and wounding 78 near the hill.
In the preceding week, 10 people, including the two policemen and two security guards, were killed in strike-related violence.
The commission resumes on Friday.