“I want to show you a photograph. In it members of the NIU (police national intervention unit) have their legs dangling over the side of a helicopter as it circles over the koppie,” evidence leader Matthew Chaskalson told Shadrack Zandisile Mtshamba at the inquiry’s public hearings in Pretoria.
“I want to suggest to you that it may be possible you saw this helicopter circling, you saw people in paramilitary uniform, and when you heard gunshots you thought you were being shot at from the helicopter, but that didn’t take place.”
Mtshamba, a Lonmin rock drill operator, agreed. He said bullets were flying from all angles.
In his statement to the inquiry, Mtshamba had submitted that he hid at a koppie while people in a helicopter was firing at fleeing protesters. He said there were about 50 miners were he hid after police clashed with the protesters on August 16, 2012.
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 200 were 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.
On Monday, Mtshamba testified that police found and shot hiding Lonmin miners on August 16.
“There was sound of gunfire from all sides. Some bullets sounded as if they were so near us. One man said we should surrender. He raised his arms,” said Mtshamba.
“He was shot in the right arm and he bent down. He raised his hands and said we should surrender. He was shot again in the stomach. The third bullet shot his leg and he fell down.”
Chaskalson said he had a difficulty with Mtshamba’s evidence because none of the miners shot in the marked area had been shot in the arm.
“My problem is that of the six victims, none had gunshot wounds in the hand or the arm. There were no people with such injuries,” Chaskalson said.
Mtshamba said he saw someone being shot in the arm, and that person was later shot twice.
“The person who was shot was raising his hands. He was shot in the vicinity of the hand. When the bullets were being fired, we would bow down our heads,” said Mtshamba.
“It may have happened that the man I saw being shot in the arm got away.”
He said it was possible the man who was shot in the arm was not the one who was also shot in the stomach and leg.
Mtshamba would continue being questioned on Tuesday.