Claims that protesting Lonmin mineworkers used muti, believing that it would make them invincible against police, were nonsensical, the Farlam Commission of Inquiry heard on Wednesday.
“SAPS is looking for a reason why people were killed and [as] all the objective evidence shows the people were killed unlawfully, they have to find some supernatural explanation,” Dali Mpofu, for the wounded and arrested Marikana miners, told the commission in Pretoria.
“If these protesters were using muti that made them believe they were invisible, why did they stop when General Mpembe stopped them?
“Why didn’t they continue to walk along, thinking he cannot see them?”
The chairman of the inquiry, retired judge Ian Farlam, requested Mpofu to address the inquiry on the muti allegations.
“Nobody is denying that muti was used because it was done in broad daylight. It was not a secret, it was done in front of the koppie by a tiny minority. Evidence is that the majority of the strikers were not believers in muti but in Christianity,” said Mpofu.
“They (muti users) are entitled to it. We cannot judge people by our own upper class standards. The fact that they believed that muti would protect them is similar to people who believe prayer would protect them.”
The inquiry has seen footage of a queue of naked mine workers being sprinkled with what police allege was muti, meant to make the protesters invisible and invincible during a confrontation. The August 14, 2012 footage shows the men being sprinkled with a liquid substance.
Controversial police witness, only identified as Mr X, has testified that during the August 16 clash which left 34 miners dead, the muti was rendered ineffective because a striker killed a rabbit. Mr X said that the traditional healer who made the muti told strikers not to kill any animals.
“We discovered later that someone killed a hare despite the instruction of the inyanga. We had been instructed not to kill any kind of animal,” said Mr X who testified via video link.
He said the muti given to the striking Lonmin miners contained body parts from security guards Hassan Fundi and the ashes of Frans Mabelani, who were murdered during the strike. The commission is investigating the deaths of 44 people during strike-related violence at Lonmin’s platinum mining operations at Marikana, near Rustenburg, North West.
Thirty-four people, mostly striking mineworkers, were shot dead in a clash with police, over 70 were wounded, and another 250 arrested on August 16, 2012.
Police were apparently trying to disarm and disperse them.
In the preceding week, 10 people, including policemen and the two security guards, were killed.
On Wednesday, Farlam referred Mpofu to a physiological analysis done on Mr X’s evidence “from an indigenous perspective”.
Mpofu responded: “I don’t want to sound arrogant but I don’t care what that document says. I haven’t read the other report, because ‘so what?”
“Any old professor can come and give us an analysis of Mr X’s statement. SAPS (SA Police Service) is looking for a reason why the people were killed.”
Mpofu said his clients were executed and their deaths were foreseeable when police went to manage the workers strike.
He repeatedly said Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa should face murder charges for his role in the Marikana shooting.
“We are not asking for the death sentence here, or the gallows. We are saying charge him,” said Mpofu.
“The fact that he might be acquitted in the criminal trial is no skin off the nose of this commission.”
The inquiry continues.