RUSTENBURG – The seventh anniversary of the Marikana massacre commemoration has been preceded by high court appearances of both policemen and mineworkers.
Former North West deputy commissioner William Mpembe, and police officers Gideon van Zyl, Dingaan Madoda and Oupa Pule are this week on trial at the North West High Court sitting in Mogwase. Their trial resumed days before the commemoration of the deadliest incident of post-apartheid State violence.
They are facing charges of contravening the Commissions Act, contravening the Independent Police Investigative Directorate Act and defeating the ends of justice.
They were arrested in March 2018 after an investigation by the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid) found that mineworker Modisaotsile van Wyk Sagalala died in police custody and not in hospital or at the scene when the police shot dead 34 mineworkers on 16 August 2012 in Marikana. The state charged that they concealed the circumstances surrounding Sagalala's death.
Thirty-four mineworkers were killed on August 16 when the police gunned them down at a koppie, or rocky outcrop, near the Nkaneng informal settlement in Marikana.
The mineworkers, employed by Lonmin platinum mine, had waged a wildcat strike demanding to be paid a minimum monthly salary of R12 500. The strike had turned violent and ten people, including two policemen and two Lonmin security guards, were killed in the week leading up to the massacre on August 16.
Mpembe faces another case in which he is accused of the murder of Semi Jokanisi, Tembelakhe Mati, Warrant Officer Hendrik Tsietsi Hendrik Monene, and Warrant Officer Sello Ronnie Lepaauku.
He is charged alongside retired Colonel Salmon Johannes Vermaak, 53, together with Constable Nkosana Mguye, 38, Warrant Officer Masilo Mogale, 49, Warrant Officer Katlego Joseph Sekgweleya, 39, and Khazamola Phillip Makhubela, 49, who are accused of the murder of Pumzile Sokhanyile.
The accused are expected to stand trial at the North West High Court in April next year.
Following the report by the Farlam Commission of Inquiry, which investigated the Marikana massacre and the incidents leading up to it, the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid) recommended the prosecutions of certain police officers for the offences of murder, attempted murder, defeating and/or obstructing the ends of justice, contravention of the Independent Police Investigative Directorate Act and contravention of the Commissions Act by giving false testimony.
Ipid investigations found that Mpembe, who was responsible for overall command of the police operation at Marikana, to have been remiss in his conduct when dealing with the incident of 13 August 2012, which led to the deaths of two police officers, Tsietsi Hendrik Monene from the public order police in Mpumalanga, and Warrant Officer Sello Lepaaku from the North West public order police, as well as striking mineworkers Thembelakhe Mati, Semi Jokanisi and Phumzile Sokhanyile.
The general also allegedly ignored the advice of experienced public order police officers on dealing with the crowd control situation and contravened the SAPS Standing Order relating to crowd control.
While it has been seven years since the Marikana tragedy, a group of mineworkers are also due to appear in the high court in October facing charges related to the killing of people during the wildcat strike.
Anele Zonke, Xolani Nzuzu, Simphiwe Booi, Khanyile Kanyise, Mzoxolo Magidiwana, Samekelo Mkhize, Amanda Nogwaza, Thobile Tyobeni, Mzukisi Soyini, Bongile Mpotye, Zamikhaya Ndude, Sithembele Sohadi, Loyiso Mtsheketshe, Zolile Honxo, Zwelitsha Mtshena, Mziwanele Mxinwa and Mzoxolo Zukulu are facing 26 counts, ranging from attempted murder, murder, malicious damage to property, robbery, unlawful possession of firearm as well as unlawful possession of ammunition.
The charges relate to the murder of the 10 people preceding August 16, 2012.
The State alleges the group killed two policemen, two Lonmin security officers and three non-striking workers, amongst other victims during the violence preceding the massacre.
Nineteen mineworkers were initially arrested, but accused ten Majeke Nonkonyana and accused six Dlunga Tholakele have since died. Dlunga, known as Bhele, was shot dead in his shack at Nkaneng informal settlement on 17 October 2017.
Their case had been dragging on in the courts due to an application they had made at the High Court in Pretoria to review former National Director of Public Prosecution (NDPP) Shaun Abrahams' decision to prosecute them. They are expected to appear in the North West High Court on October 18.
A group of another eight members of the Association of Mineworkers and Construction (Amcu) were sentenced to 20 years each for murder not related to the massacre.
Aubrey Seitsang, 39, Sibonile Sobopha, 32, Herbert Baqhesi, 36, William Nyenyane, 33, Samson Gqwetani, 42, Gift Luveli, 39, Luvo Soyizwaphi, 32, and Mzolisi Mbulana, 48, were sentenced for killing Petros Sabata Chale, 39, at Marikana West on 8 December 2016.
Chale was stabbed and hacked to death with pangas and spears after he was chased by a group of about 200 men. He was killed over the allocation of low-cost government RDP houses in Marikana. He was the local leader of the SA National Civic Organisation (Sanco) aligned to the ruling African National Congress (ANC).
Chale's killing is believed to be politically motivated as all his murderers were members of a rival political party and a trade union opposed to the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) which is also an ally of the ANC.
The Marikana massacre bred political intolerance, and although the situation has since simmered, only the United Democratic Movement (UDM), Democratic Alliance (DA) and Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) held election campaigns in Marikana leading up to the general election in May this year.
The seventh anniversary of the Marikana massacre will take place on Friday at the infamous Nkaneng koppie.