Bishop: Lonmin lawyers are mincing my words

Lawyers for Lonmin Mine on Thursday grilled Bishop Jo Seoka during the Marikana Inquiry.

Bishop Joe Seoka arrives at the Rustenburg Civic Centre. Picture: Taurai Maduna/EWN

RUSTENBURG - Lawyers for Lonmin Mine on Thursday grilled Bishop Jo Seoka about his criticism that the platinum producer did not address Marikana miners on the day of the shooting.

The Farlam Commission of Inquiry is hearing evidence in an attempt to uncover the truth about what happened when 34 miners were gunned down on 16 August.

The South African Council of Churches bishop said he believed Lonmin missed a golden opportunity to resolve the wage dispute on the day of the shooting because the miners were keen to talk.

"They didn't show anger, they wanted to reach out."

But Lonmin Lawyer Schalk Burger said the koppie where the protesters had gathered had been cordoned off by police.

"How do you blame Lonmin for not going back to the koppie which had been cordoned off by the police?"

After trying to dodge the question several times, Seoka started speaking in Zulu saying Burger was mincing his words.

Seoka said he left the mine shortly before the shooting because the area had been cordoned off by police, but he pointed fingers at Lonmin for not making any arrangement with North West Police Commissioner Zukiswa Mbombo to go there and resolve the wage dispute.

Burger said Lonmin management was told the area was restricted and had been warned that it was unsafe after recent killings.

Seoka has been unable to explain exactly when he addressed the miners.

Thousands of Lonmin miners had abandoned tools in August, demanding better salaries.

Their illegal strike was marred by violence, with a total 47 lives claimed.

Operations resumed when Lonmin miners and management agreed on wage hike percentages after the five-week stoppage.