AUGUST 13 2012 MAJOR TAU MALEBO
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