“He arrived at the koppie [hill] in a police vehicle. They came near and stood in front of us. He said he wanted to address [the protesters] through a loudspeaker from inside the vehicle,” Lonmin mineworker Shadrack Zandisile Mtshamba said at the commission’s hearings in Pretoria.
“He said we needed to go back to work. The workers said they would not return to work before getting a response from the employer. He didn’t want to listen and the workers also adopted the same attitude.”
Zokwana, now agriculture, forestry, and fisheries minister, was in a police Nyala vehicle when he addressed the protesters at a hill in Marikana, near Rustenburg in the North West.
The protesters insisted Zokwana should leave the vehicle and speak to them. The then National Union of Mineworkers president refused and was taken away by the police.
Moments later, Joseph Mathunjwa, leader of the rival Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union, arrived at the hill. He was also in a Nyala.
“The workers requested him to come out of the Nyala. He explained to us that the police had told him not to exit the vehicle. He said we should return to work and he would talk to Lonmin management,” said Mtshamba.
Since the sun was setting, Mtshamba said Mathunjwa was asked to return to the hill the following day.
Like the majority of protesters, he left the hill at night and returned in the morning on August 16, 2012.
“The place was full, compared to previous days. Everybody wanted to hear what Mathunjwa was going to tell us. We hoped that things would be getting better,” he said.
“We were expecting a raise in the wages. On that day, we saw numerous police officers also converging at the mountain. They had different kinds of weapons,” he said.
The commission, chaired by retired judge Ian Farlam, is investigating the deaths of 44 people during strike-related violence at Lonmin’s platinum mining operations at Marikana in August 2012.
Thirty-four people, mostly striking mineworkers, were shot dead in a clash with police, over 70 were wounded, and over 250 arrested on August 16, 2012. Police were apparently trying to disarm and disperse them.
In the preceding week, 10 people, including two policemen and two Lonmin security guards, were killed.