Police Had Planned To Shoot The Marikana Miners

Living conditions for South African workers in Khayelitsha township on the outskirts of Cape Town
Living conditions for South African workers in Khayelitsha township on the outskirts of Cape Town

The lawyer George Bizos, who represents the families of the 34 Lonmin miners shot dead by the South African police, has said the police attempt to arrest more than 3,000 striking Marikana miners was ‘crazy’ and ‘unprecedented’.

He insisted that the police had planned to shoot miners on August 16 this year, not arrest them.

The police, he said, have failed to prove that officers at Marikana were equipped with handcuffs on the day of the shooting.

Bizos was speaking at the Marikana Commission of Inquiry, in Rustenburg on Tuesday.

After negotiations with miners reached deadlock, the police executed their six-point plan by firing rubber bullets, using teargas and water cannons.

They then fired live ammunition in a bid, they say, to disperse and arrest protesters.

About 259 miners were arrested and about 70 injured.

Bizos continued: ‘Do you know of any police operation from anywhere in the world where police attempted to make arrests where thousands of people had gathered?

‘It is a crazy plan to make arrests in a big crowd and one can say it was impossible to carry out such an operation.’

Bizos said his opinion would be endorsed by Colonel Eddie Hendricks, a public order policing expert from Belgium, who is scheduled to testify at the commission soon.

He said Hendricks – who was called in by the South African government in 1994 to train the police in managing public gatherings – is expected to say that the police’s plan was ‘fundamentally flawed’.

He added that Hendricks would testify that, at public gatherings, the police were encouraged not to do anything to provoke a crowd of angry protesters because provocation would cause them to resist and become violent.

Last week, Brigadier Ziphania Mkhwanazi told the commission that the police acted ‘appropriately and in self-defence’.

Bizos contradicted Mkhwanazi, saying most of the dead miners had been shot in the back.

Earlier, Geoff Budlender, who is sitting on the commission, argued that minutes taken at a police meeting on August 15 showed that the police were given intelligence that indicated that moving a large group of protesters could result in fatalities because the miners were prepared to defend themselves against the police.

Budlender said sending the special task force to Marikana was an indication that the police were planning to shoot protesters, as the unit is intended to deal with situations such as hostage and anti-terrorist operations.

Meanwhile, Cyril Ramaphosa was elected on Tuesday as the new deputy president of the ANC.

Last month, Forbes magazine estimated Ramaphosa’s wealth at $675-million and put him at number 21 of 40 of Africa’s wealthiest individuals.

They ascribed his wealth to his Shanduka company’s investments in mining company Assore, trading company Bidvest, Standard Bank, and a joint venture with Coca-Cola called Coca-Cola Shanduka Beverages, among others.

Ramaphosa is former general secretary of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM).

In February, Ramaphosa, as chairman of the ANC’s disciplinary committee of appeals, upheld a 2011 ruling against the ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema.

In October, it emerged through a series of leaked e-mails that he, as a shareholder in Lonmin, had urged the government and police to intervene and stop a strike at the company’s Marikana mine.

COSATU general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi has appealed to new ANC deputy president Ramaphosa to lead by example and vacate his positions in various companies, by putting his business interests into a trust while he served in the ANC leadership.

Vavi said the ANC should send a clear message that those in executive positions should not hold any directorships in business.

‘The leadership must not find itself in a conflict of interest,’ warned Vavi.

‘When you are in government you must be able to live by the means provided for in public office.

‘Cyril is a capitalist who played a major role in the mining sector but we should not allow government people to do business with the state,’ Vavi added.

Meanwhile, President Jacob Zuma called for unity shortly after he was re-elected ANC party president earlier this week.

Donning the robe of a conciliatory statesman, Zuma called on ANC members not to alienate each other on the basis of who they backed for leadership at the Mangaung conference.

Zuma made an impromptu speech and said the party should continue its democratic tradition of allowing members to choose who they want for leadership.

The mining company Lonmin on Tuesday denied it had deducted a R2,000 bonus from its workers’ payslips.

‘In recent weeks it has emerged that some Lonmin employees were under the mistaken impression that their once-off bonus payments had been reversed, based on the data on their payslips,’ company spokeswoman Sue Vey said.

Lonmin’s existing two-year wage agreement was amended on September 18 and included a R2,000 signing bonus.

Most employees received their R2,000 bonus on September 27, and had access to their money within 24 hours. This was in line with a promise that bonuses would be paid on or before October 1st.

Less than 0.5 per cent of employees were paid later, either because they did not clock in correctly, or because it could not be verified at the time that they were back at work. These anomalies had been addressed, Vey said.

Lonmin had four different pay periods for salaries to be paid at various times during the month.

Information on employee salaries had to be received up to 11 days before the end of the payroll period in order for salaries to be paid on time.

Any payment made after the relevant pay run closed, and which was not part of monthly pay, was reflected on payslips as an advance payment or middle-of-the-month payment in advance, said Vey.

The R2,000 bonus fell into this category for some Lonmin workers.

The payment would have been reflected on October payslips, described as an early return or bonus of R2,000.

Because the money had already been received into the employee’s bank account, the payslip would also record a deduction of R2,000.

‘The two entries balance each other so that the effect at month end is zero.’

Without this balance, a double payment would result.

The tax payable on the R2,000 bonus was deducted from October earnings and reflected on the month-end payslip.

‘While the information on our payslips is in line with standard payroll practice, we acknowledge that it may be confusing for some of our employees and we are already working on a simplified version,’ said Vey.

Lonmin claims it is working on an internal education campaign to help employees to understand their payslips better. Failure to honour the agreement is leading to threats of more strikes at the Marikana mine.

Workers and local communities are angry that they are not seeing the benefits of platinum mining.