Mthethwa: Marikana shouldn’t have happened

The former police minister said officers had no time to discuss human rights with ‘criminals’.

FILE: Miners' bodies lie on the ground after police opened fire at protesting workers at the Lonmin mine in Marikana, 16 August, 2012. Picture: EWN.

CENTURION - Former police minister Nathi Mthethwa on Monday told the Farlam Commission of Inquiry that nobody should have died during the Marikana wage strike.

But he blamed the "criminal nature" of the protests for the tragic outcome.

The commission is investigating the circumstances of a 2012 strike at a Lonmin platinum mine in which 34 miners were shot dead by police on 16 August.

A further 10 people, including officers, were killed in the lead-up to the incident.

Mthethwa, who is now the minister of arts and culture, testified this morning about his own role in the tragedy as well as the specific instructions he gave to police.

FILE: Former minister of police Nathi Mthethwa. Picture: Sapa.

He further spoke about the role played by Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, who was a board member at Lonmin at the time.

Testifying about the police's decision to fire at the miners, Mthethwa said something went terribly wrong but emphasised that they were dealing with criminals.

"Police facing criminals who are wielding weapons [have] no time to take out and read the human rights charter to those criminals," he said.

Police open fire at protesting workers at the Lonmin mine in Marikana, 16 August, 2012. Picture: EWN.

At the same time, he insisted that there was no political pressure on him in terms of the actions he decided to take.

He says Ramaphosa simply told him the situation at the North West mine was tense and that there weren't enough police officers on the ground.

Mthethwa added that he received a similar call from the then-president of the National Union of Mineworkers, Senzeni Zokwana.

He says it would have made no difference who called him, he would have reacted the same way.

"Whether it's Mr Joe Soap or Mr Ramaphosa, it's the same to me. Any person could pick up the phone and call me."

Mthethwa says he immediately contacted the provincial police commissioner, and was satisfied that plans were being made to control the situation and that reinforcements were being brought in.

He says both the provincial and national commissioners had assured him that the situation was under control.