Rustenburg:The Commission of Inquiry, tasked to probe the Marikana killings, re-lived the tragedy on Monday as it combed the scene of the August 16 shooting.
The inquiry, led by retired judge Ian Farlam, is set to begin its formal hearings on Wednesday and it has been given four months to furnish South Africans with details of what could have led to the death of 45 people in what started as a wage strike by Lonmin platinum mine workers.
Crime scene experts from the South African Police Service led Farlam, his commissioners and a sea of journalists to different spots where several bodies were found. On 16 August police shot and killed 34 miners who had engaged on wild-cat strikes in Marikana. Days before that, 10 people died including two police officers during clashes between rival unions.
It emerged on Monday that most of those who died in that tragic event, could have died from wounds inflicted by live ammunition, stun grenades and or R5 riffles. At least 16 bodies were found lying between five and seven meters from each other near cattle kraals about 100 meters from the Marikana informal settlement. This is also the place where a number of R5 rifles, shotguns and pistol cartridges were found, explained Warrant Officer Patrick Thamae.
The majority of bodies were found on a nearby koppie, meters from the informal settlements. Photographers shouted at each other as they battled to get the best shot of Farlam and his team maneuvering through the small spaces in between the stones. The yellow markings in the stones with letters A-to J were an indication of 10 miners who died there.
The markings on the stones, as pointed out by the crime scene experts, could point to evidence that some died while trying to hide in between the rocks in the koppies. There were also several white markings, which according to police were marks of bullet strikes. Witnesses were also allowed to point out scenes that they thought were relevant to the inquiry. The loco inspection was expected to continue on Tuesday with other suggested places to visit including the Lonmin mine and the informal settlements where some miners lived.
Farlam was cautious enough not to allow journalists to ask questions that may jeopardise the investigation or insinuate regarding what may have taken place in Marikana. That is the job of the commission, he signaled.
The commission, appointed by President Jacob Zuma in August, has divided its investigation into four themes, with the first theme covering the period leading to 9 August and after 16 August. It will also probe the employer, in this case Lonmin, and whether the company’s attitude and policies did not contribute to the tragedy. Another investigation will focus on the actions of the different trade unions while another investigation will focus on the conduct of certain government departments including the police, the Mineral Resources and Labour Departments.
It is expected to be a tough inquiry with some suggesting that the four months given may not be enough to unearth all the facts surrounding the massacre. But Farlam on Monday stressed the importance of expedition as the commissioners carried out their work, saying the “world” was eagerly awaiting its findings.
Earlier in the day, Advocate Dumisa Ntsebeza SC, who represents 20 families of the deceased asked Farlam to delay the start of the hearings for two weeks to allow grieving relatives mostly from the Eastern Cape and Lesotho to attend the proceedings at the Rustenburg Civic Centre.
Ntsebeza also claimed that his team was not ready as there was still outstanding documentation critical to his preparation for the inquiry. After a short adjournment, Farlam rejected the request to postpone the inquiry. It also emerged that the Department of Social Development was in the process of assisting affected parties and family members to attend the hearings.