Seoka slams Marikana mine owners

23 November 2012

REUTERS

Angry: demonstrators during the in­quiry into the Marikana massacre

Angry: demonstrators during the in­quiry into the Marikana massacre

THE President of the South African Council of Churches, the Rt Revd Johannes Seoka, Bishop of Pretoria, attacked both police and mine-owners when he gave evidence to the inquiry in­vestigating the shooting dead of 34 striking miners at the Marikana mine in North West Province last August (News, 24 August).

Bishop Seoka told the hearing in Rustenberg that he had been trying to act as a mediator between miners, police, and the owners, Lonmin, on the day that police fired into a crowd of strikers.

He said that the arrest of more than 275 miners, after the killings, was unnecessary, and admitted that he had no faith in the police. "I can tell you, having been a priest for 40 years, police in this country can never be trusted."

He felt that the police could have done more to aid negotiation be­tween Lonmin and the strikers, who were seeking improved pay and con­ditions.

He also dismissed police claims that the miners used muti (tra­ditional charms) to protect them­selves from the bullets. It was a smear to ridicule black people and their culture, he said.

Bishop Seoka told how he had spent 30 minutes with the miners shortly before the shooting, discus­sing how he could help. Then he had met three senior Lonmin officials who refused to meet the workers, whom they labelled murderers.

The Bishop believed that it was during this time that the instruction to move in on the miners was given, "as the area suddenly became busy" and "helicopters took off in a circling way".

As he drove away, he received a phone call from one of the strikers, which, he said, haunted him for days. "A voice on the other side, in Xhosa, said: 'Bishop, where are you? We are being killed.' I could hear some shoot­ing going on, helicopters, and people screaming."

He said that the call, which lasted only a few seconds, was cut off before he could respond, and there was no answer when he called back. "I felt very guilty. I had promised to do an assignment and get back, but I didn't."

 

 

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