“They killed us with hippos”
Peter Alexander, chair in Social Change and professor of Sociology at the University of Johannesburg, describes to Amandla what eyewitness told his independent research team in the days after the massacre, piecing together a sequence of events that is quite remote from the official version.
‘On the Saturday after the killings I went with others to Marikana, as sociologist. I wanted to get some background on the workers. In the process we got a different story and realised there had been no interviews with workers. Two things we picked up are very significant. First is that there was a gap in the razor wire set up to separate workers sitting on the mountain from police and miners’ living quarters. The wire was pulled out about 15 minutes before and it has a gap in it of about five metres. This resonated with me…
My conclusion is twofold: had the police really been primarily concerned with their own safety they would not have left a gap. Secondly, it left the police in a stronger position to effectively shoot at mineworkers. It immediately reminded of this police tactic in the UK called ‘cattling’…the gap was actually a funnel through which workers would go and it seems from watching TV footage that many of them did and were then slaughtered.
When one looks at the footage, it seems that ten or so miners were killed, apparently charging at the police, from the perspective of cameras situated behind the police. The question then is where the other mineworkers went. From the footage there were about 3 000 or so on the mountain [Wonderkop] and only about a hundred came forward. What they say is that they dispersed in different directions but a large number ran towards [another set of outcrops, dubbed ‘Killing Koppie’] behind the mountain…with all sorts of nooks and crannies. It makes sense to head there because it is the only place where one could take cover. In running there, they would have gone [across a plain] past a water cannon and this is also the area where workers say that some of their numbers were killed by running Nyalas over them, crushing them.
Throughout the research, we come across workers from Marikana, and each time the story is the same: that many workers end up on Killing Koppie. According to one account, Casspirs pull up on the far Western side, another has helicopters landing. There is no contradiction between those two accounts. Police then get out and go on foot towards Killing Koppie and according to the eyewitnesses then slaughter people. These accounts match up with evidence we saw on the koppie…rivulets of what appear to be blood left behind. I saw a trouser-leg torn off …drenched in blood.
Perhaps more convincing still is that the police have marked the spaces from where we assume they took the corpses and that could still be seen on Monday [20 August] and each marker had a letter, A to J and then another researcher found more, up to N, so it looks like 14 bodies were removed from there. But there could have been more. Perhaps some were injured and moved away. We got [the] impression that some were taking cover in some old cattle kraals nearby, where they could also have been shot.
The suggestion from the marking spots is that people were hiding and that if killed, it was at short range.’
The Daily Maverick newsletter collaborated with Alexander’s research. Based on the evidence collected, reporter Greg Marinovich concluded 12 days after the massacre that it was becoming clear to him that ‘heavily armed police hunted down and killed the miners in cold blood. A minority were killed in the filmed event where police claim they acted in self-defence. The rest was murder on a massive scale’.
The voices of Marikana’s striking mine workers have been largely absent from most of the reporting analysis that has followed the Massacre. Amandla spoke to Thami Dlamini (not his real name) who works as a winch operator for Lonmin and was on the mountain when the police opened fire.
A!: Where did the conflict at Marikana begin?
TD: As from the 10th of August my colleagues and other employees sort of working under the education of AMCU, we took a decision to go to management to make a demand of R 12 000. Those guys, they are working with us but under a different organisation [AMCU]. Those guys are complaining about the money; the money we earn is R 4 000. So when we are going to meet management in the central venue of Lonmin, our management told those guys ‘I can’t talk to those sort of gatherings, please go to your stakeholders as employees of Lonmin’. So those guys took a march to NUM office. There the trouble with NUM begins.
A!: How are you and your comrades feeling one week after the massacre.
TD: After being shot at I feel so [shakes his head]. Till now I’m not feeling comfortable because when I get that memory, I went back, eish, and I see, I’m looking at that day – I see Hippos and the police shooting and soldiers – because they have soldiers and police.
We feel so painful because we are so disappointed why the president of NUM, the president of employees who agreed, he took a decision with management to use the police to go to disperse, or to destroy, or to kill our employees. So since that day I don’t believe the government of South Africa is working for communities. That is the government of capitalists because management and NUM took a decision to kill our brothers because we want the demand, we want the money for our pockets. So since they are coming and you can’t trust the police.
A! How is the community around the mine responding?
TD: The community of Marikana feels such shame, still till now. Our members, when we are sitting at your home the police are around there to check who you are you. There’s someone they’re taking from houses to go to the police station. Still now I can’t forget those guys. When you are taken by the police, you get there that your brother in prison. I don’t know what’s happening; I don’t know if it’s the system of NUM to kill ordinary members, because at Lonmin there are two stakeholders, AMCU and NUM. I think NUM are siding with management.
A!: What are the main demands of the workers now and what are your demands relating to the killings?
TD: The main demand is pay of R12 500. The workers want R12 500. So management don’t want to engage with the stakeholders to discuss this money. They send the police to go there to kill those guys. That thing is not the first time. The example for last year – last year we were on strike around May. When they went on strike management took a decision to dismiss all of them and to employ new workers.
A!: You’ve spoken about NUM. Tell us about AMCU – do you think they can represent the workers?
TD: No. Most employees I don’t like NUM, you know. If you listen, NUM sound sort of like ‘Comrade, Comrade’ – when they are singing with employees. But Uzokwana Singambulala Thina [they treat us like killers]. I agree with AMCU because AMCU, they are assisting: ‘Guys, let’s go there, we’ll go there’. And AMCU are proposing to management: ‘Management, don’t do this, don’t tell the police to kill these guys’. And AMCU is with us at the mountain to pray. The NUM and management take a decision to tell cops to kill you.
A!: And the police will say they were acting in self defence.
TD: It is not the truth because the police are not acting in self defence; they were shooting some other guys and [there was] [a] hippo grinding all over the place, driving on [over] some employees. Those guys they are killing there with the assistance of the hippo.
A!: What do you think of how the government has responded?
TD: The government is unfair with employees. Even Mr Zuma goes there to Rustenburg, but he cannot meet employees. He goes to meet management, to listen to management. Management tells Mr Zuma to do this, and this and this. Mr Zuma then goes back to the police.
A!: What solidarity do the workers want from the rest of the country?
TD: I want to try to check how (we are) ruled. How is the union working with the members? Because the union like NUM is working like a company. This union of NUM, you are having shares with the Lonmin mine. Like Mr Zuma, he has interest in the protection of the other side of the situation [in] the security of Mr. Cyril Ramaphosa.
We want the people to assist us to change the situation of our employees. Because we can’t work 12 months, we are paid R4 000 and we live in Makuku house(s). And our child must go to university, college and high schools. When you are earning R4 000 you can’t afford it.
A!: I see you’re wearing the ANC Youth League cap – is that not part of the government?
TD: It’s a part of government. I’m like the, I’m the government. The government is the community of South Africa. But I’m so disappointed because of the leadership of Mr Zuma. I won’t quit ANC. The leadership of Zuma is the problem. .. I do not say I’m a DA member. No, I’m an ANC member right now. But I am so disappointed when the ANC gave permission to the police to kill miners. The ANC is there because of us.