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'Marikana strike became a criminal act'

Adv Dali Mpofu says emails sent during the Marikana unrest diverted attention from real issues.

Dali Tambo and Dumisa Ntsebeza chat during a break at the Farlam Commission of Inquiry on 3 Oct 2012. Picture: Taurai Maduna/EWN.

RUSTENBURG - The illegal strike in Marikana last year began as a labour dispute but morphed into a criminal act, the Farlam Commission of Inquiry heard on Wednesday.

National Union of Mineworkers president Senzeni Zokwana was cross-examined at the inquiry about the union's role in the days leading up to the violence at the platinum mine.

At least 44 people died during the violence, including 34 miners who were shot dead when police opened fire on 16 August last year.

Ten other people, including two police officers and two security guards, had been killed prior the police shooting.

Lonmin miners had downed tools in August 2012 to demand higher wages, as well as better working and living conditions.

Zokwana said wage negotiations could not resolve the impasse in Marikana. He said the police were needed to restore law and order to the volatile situation.

Zokwana said miners turned their backs on NUM.

He said the union had to take a step back and let the police take over in order to prevent further deaths and destruction of property.

Advocate Dali Mpofu, who is representing the miners, said emails sent from businessman and veteran politician Cyril Ramaphosa to Lonmin bosses changed the character of the strike and diverted attention from the real issue.