LONMIN advocate Schalk Burger told the Farlam Commission on Thursday it was reasonable for the platinum mining company not to go to the koppie and negotiate with the strikers in Marikana on August 16, in light of the fact that the strikers were armed and posed a threat to public safety and security.
More than 40 people died and more than 90 were injured during a six-week-long unprotected strike when Lonmin workers at the Marikana mine demanded a R12,500 basic salary. Police shot and killed 34 miners on August 16 following a confrontation.
Anglican Bishop Jo Seoka, who took the witness stand again on Thursday to continue with his testimony from last week, said a window of opportunity was available when he had tried to facilitate negotiations between the strikers and Lonmin — just before the 34 were killed.
Bishop Seoka said it was "very interesting" to observe that the strikers on the koppie on that day did not show anger or use strong language when he spoke to them. "They wanted to reach out," he said.
"The company’s language was, however, stronger — angry and in denial," he said.
"As far as I was concerned there was still a window open for engagement and that is the opportunity I think was missed," said Bishop Seoka.
He said Lonmin did not make an effort to enlist the aid of the police and go to the koppie and address the workers.
Adv Burger pointed out that, according to Bishop Seoka’s evidence last week, North West police commissioner Zukiswa Mbombo was not willing to compromise on security.
Bishop Seoka said Ms Mbombo had never prevented him or Lonmin representatives from going to the koppie and addressing the workers. He said it was Bernard Mokwena, Lonmin’s vice-president for human capital and external affairs, who told him not to go back to the koppie when they were ready to, after an unknown man whispered to him.
He said he had wanted to inform the workers that Lonmin was prepared to negotiate if they disarmed, dispersed and elected a committee to represent them in talks.
Bishop Seoka’s recollection of events was called into question when it appeared that he might have confused the meeting he held with Lonmin representatives on August 16 with another one four days later.
This was because he had earlier said there was a woman at Lonmin’s office reception. However, it was argued that the woman, Constance Mogobozi, was only at the latter meeting. Bishop Seoka conceded that this was possible.
Adv Burger said Mr Mokwena and two others, including Lonmin spokesman Abey Kgotle, would dispute the Bishop’s version of events and what was said in the discussions between him and them.
"Mr Kgotle told you that the conduct of the crowd was unlawful and illegal and should not be legitimised," Adv Burger said.
Bishop Seoka said the statement was not true.
Mr Burger said there was nothing Lonmin could have done just before the shooting.