They walked out in response to the commission’s chairman, retired judge Ian Farlam, saying family of the arrested and injured miners should be admitted to the overflow room, rather than the main auditorium.
He previously ordered that members of the public should not be allowed into the chamber during the testimony of the police’s key witness, known only as Mr X, to protect his identity.
After a brief adjournment, the widows returned to the auditorium.
“… For today only, we will allow people who were in the chamber yesterday, contrary to the order that was made, to remain in the chamber today,” said Farlam.
Mr X is testifying via a video link from an undisclosed location. He claims he was part of a group of striking Lonmin workers at Marikana, near Rustenburg in the North West, who participated in the killing of two mine security guards and two police officers.
Under cross-examination by Dumisa Ntsebeza SC, for the families of the mineworkers who were killed, Mr X said he feared for his life because of his decision to give evidence to the commission.
He denied having been offered immunity from prosecution, or any incentive for giving evidence.
Ntsebeza asked him: “Who would put your life in danger?”
Mr X responded: “I’m scared of the people with whom we committed these serious things [killings] at Marikana.”
The inquiry is investigating the deaths of 44 people during strike-related violence at Lonmin’s mining operations at Marikana. Thirty-four people, mostly striking mineworkers, were shot dead in a clash with the police, more than 70 were wounded, and another 250 were arrested on August 16, 2012.
The 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.