Marikana trial: Miners may have been in possession of 60 rounds of ammunition - defence lawyer

25th May 2021

By: News24Wire


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Striking mineworkers may have possibly ended up in possession of 60 rounds of ammunition, which they allegedly stole from an injured police officer on 13 August 2012 at Lonmin K3 shaft in Marikana, defence lawyer Henko Scholtz told the North West High Court.

Scholtz concluded cross-examining the State's witness, Sergeant Benjamin Mahume, by suggesting that he could not deny to the court that his late colleague, Warrant Officer Sello Lepaaku, had an R5 rifle and 60 rounds of ammunition.

On Monday, Mahume testified under cross-examination, for the fifth day, in the murder trial of former North West deputy police commissioner, Major-General William Mpembe, and five other officers.

Lepaaku, along with another officer, Hendrick Monene, died after police clashed with striking mineworkers at the shaft three days before the infamous Marikana massacre.

Mineworkers Semi Jokanisi, Phumzile Sokhanyile and Thembelakhe Mati were also killed.

Mpembe is on trial alongside his former colleagues, retired Colonel Salmon Vermaak, Constable Nkosana Mguye, and Warrant Officers Collin Mogale, Joseph Sekgwetla and Khazamola Makhubela.

Mahume testified before Judge Tebogo Djaje that chaos erupted after Mpembe instructed tear gas to be fired at the workers on their way to the "koppie" (hill).

News24 previously reported that striking miners were looking for other miners, who had reported for duty at the K3 shaft when the horrific scenes unfolded.

Mahume testified that miners dispersed after they were shot at, and that two miners allegedly attacked Lepaaku.

Video footage showing what happened on the day was again viewed in the court on Monday.

Mpembe's lawyer, Kobus Burger, put it to the witness that, based on the visuals, his version that a tear gas canister was fired and later a stun grenade was not true.

But Mahume said, based on what he saw and recalled from the day, he only saw one tear gas canister being fired and the group then dispersed.

The footage, however, showed two tear gas canisters and stun grenades before the workers started running.

"I only saw one CS (tear gas) and people started scattering," Mahume replied to Burger.

Mahume also testified that two workers used a panga to "chop" Lepaaku, and that they took what looked like an R5 rifle from him.

The witness, however, could not be certain whether it was an R5 rifle.

But Scholtz, who represents Mguye, Mogale, Sekgwetla and Makhubela, told the court he had a statement, attached with an occurrence book.

The lawyer said the statement was written by one of the State's witnesses.

Although senior State prosecutor, advocate Kenneth Mashile, had an issue with a statement of another witness being put to Mahume, Scholtz continued with specific paragraphs and details of the occurrence book, which showed that Lepaaku was issued with an R5 rifle.

Scholtz said the occurrence book confirmed that a firearm and 60 rounds of ammunition were issued to Lepaaku.

He added that the officer, who had attached the occurrence book, said two magazines with 60 rounds were issued by "Captain Mayekiso".

But Mahume could neither confirm nor deny the contents of that statement, reiterating he could not be sure the gun removed from his colleague was an R5.

The police officer maintained "it looked" like one.

But Scholtz continued: "Based on this document, I want to put it to you that you cannot deny that it is possible that 60 rounds of R5 bullets came into the [possession of] persons who took the rifle from the late Warrant Officer Lepaaku."

Mahume testified that he saw the miners "celebrating" with a shotgun and what he believed was an R5 rifle.

The trial continues and is expected to run until Friday.

Edited by News24Wire



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