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
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
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,
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
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
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."