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Marikana: ‘Reopening wage negotiations would've been illegal’

A top Lonmin official says they were already a year into a wage agreement which had been signed and accepted.

FILE: A top Lonmin official has told the Farlam Commission of Inquiry that the company refused to reopen wage negations with striking miners in 2012 because it would have been illegal. Picture: EWN.

PRETORIA - A top Lonmin official has told the Farlam Commission of Inquiry that the company refused to reopen wage negations with striking miners in 2012 because it would have been illegal.

Bernard Mokwena is testifying at the commission in Centurion about the role he played in the days leading up to the 16 August, 2012 shooting in which 34 miners were gunned down by police.

President Jacob Zuma appointed the inquiry to investigate whether police were justified in using lethal force.

Ten people were also killed in the days leading to the shooting including a mineworker, strikers, two Lonmin security guards and two policemen.

During proceedings over the past two years, questions have been raised about Lonmin's reluctance to hear the miners wage demands, when they started the unprotected strike in Marikana.

Mokwena said they were already a year into a wage agreement which had been signed and accepted.

He added he's not surprised that the workers didn't want to go through the National Union of Mineworkers because they had already discovered that the union had lost touch with its members.

The commission is set to wrap up proceedings at the end of September before handing over recommendations to the president.

Meanwhile, national police commissioner Riah Phiyega said last week she cannot remember the details of a meeting held before the Marikana shooting in which the police's operation was discussed.

Questions were raised about who gave police the order to use maximum force when trying to disperse protesting miners on 16 August, 2012.

Phiyega was recalled to the commission to answer questions about the meeting and explain why it was never revealed during proceedings.

She said the risks of the operation must have been brought up but she can't remember details of that specific meeting.