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Au­gust 13 was sup­posed to be another or­di­nary day for Marikana res­i­dent Ma­jor Tau Malebo, a se­nior of­fi­cer at the Pho­keng Po­lice Sta­tion.

It soon turned into a hor­ri­fy­ing en­counter with strik­ing min­ers. The sight of dead col­leagues who had been hacked to death with pan­gas was one of the worst sights of his 35-year ca­reer.

Malebo, now re­tired, was on leave at the time. He and his fam­ily were at home on their farm on the out­skirts of Marikana. His bright-or­ange house with its pur­ple trim has a view of the field where the po­lice of­fi­cers were butchered.

“It was late in the morn­ing when we heard po­lice chop­pers fly­ing low just above the house. I went out­side to in­ves­ti­gate and see what all the com­mo­tion was about,” he said this week.

“At the time, hav­ing been on leave for a few months, I knew noth­ing about the min­ers’ strike.”

When he went out­side, Malebo saw “peo­ple run­ning in the field” a few hun­dred me­tres from his home. He then saw a large con­tin­gent of po­lice and emer­gency ser­vices per­son­nel gath­er­ing about 500m away – where Tsi­etsi Monene and Sello Lepaaku had been hacked to death.

“I drove down there with the in­ten­tion of find­ing out what was hap­pen­ing. The po­lice of­fi­cer I spoke to at the scene told me: ‘Your col­leagues are dead.’

“They pointed to the field along­side the road and I saw three or four guys ly­ing there in uni­form.”

The tragedy of the slain po­lice of­fi­cers was felt deeply by many, but it was per­sonal for po­lice of­fi­cers such as Malebo.

“When you work with peo­ple in the force you can’t help but de­velop a bond with your col­leagues. It goes with­out say­ing that I felt hurt by what I saw there,” he said.

“I im­me­di­ately imag­ined my­self in the po­si­tion of those dead men, in uni­form and on duty, just do­ing my job and en­coun­ter­ing what those men did that day. “Know­ing how dan­ger­ous our job is, it was a painful mo­ment for me.”

Malebo never imag­ined that darker days were still to come. He learnt of the 34 men who were killed on Au­gust 16 – in ad­di­tion to the 10 who had been killed just days be­fore – while watch­ing the evening news.

“In the same way as I had imag­ined my­self in the po­si­tion of the dead po­lice­men, when I saw the dead min­ers I sym­pa­thised with them as fel­low hu­man be­ings,” he said.

“I have chil­dren my­self and those were some­one’s chil­dren ly­ing there. I have rel­a­tives who work in the mines as well. The man­ner in which they died was tragic and my heart was sore.

“I was af­fected by the dy­ing of peo­ple, whether they were po­lice­men or not. The loss of life is what broke my heart.”

AF­FECTED Re­tired po­lice

of­fi­cer Tau Malebo

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