Marikana, the aftermath
In his new book, celebrated investigative photojournalist Greg Marinovich presents his findings on the massacre at Small Koppie (Scene 2). In this edited extract, he examines the events that followed the shootings, the treatment of the arrested mine work
Murder at Small Koppie: The Real Story of the Marikana Massacre by Greg Marinovich Penguin Random House 267 pages R219 at takealot.com
At the end of August, the police convened a retreat at the Roots wedding and conference centre in the town of Potchefstroom. ‘Roots’, as the nine-day event came to be known, was where the police fashioned a mixture of truth, lies and misdirects into a narrative.
Policemen were coached into making statements that supported a case of self-defence. Evidence of unlawful police actions, especially at Scene 2, was suppressed. False evidence was introduced to show the miners as the aggressors. Incriminating images were deleted, and entire sets of images were renamed to try to cover up the deletions. The secret meeting held by the police leadership on the eve of the massacre was struck from the record, and the recording of the meeting, as well as any minutes of it, was destroyed. Even the official minutes of the Roots conference were rewritten to hide the cover-up. Every police commander, except Brigadier Adriaan Calitz, refrained from writing their statement of what they had witnessed until after Roots.
Falsifying the evidence and ensuring that individual policemen’s statements did not incriminate one another were not the only measures taken by police. On the night of the massacre, the 276 miners who were arrested at Scene 2 were taken to Lonmin’s Number One shaft. Shadrack Mtshamba says they were left locked in police Canter trucks until one in the morning. They were not given the opportunity to go to the bathroom, and several men relieved themselves inside the trucks. One by one they were taken to give statements before they were instructed to go outside and squat in lines for hours, until after dawn. It was a bitterly cold night for the men to endure, and many of them were in shock and traumatised. Mtshamba’s treasured leather jacket had been taken from him at Small Koppie by the police and never returned. Once all the men were processed, they were taken to various police stations across the district.
Mtshamba was taken to the village of Bethanie in the former homeland of Bophuthatswana. On arrival, he and others were forced to lift their shirts so that any animal-skin thongs or wool strings tied around their waists could be cut off. These traditional or Africanist religious paraphernalia are used in the same way that Catholics, Anglicans and Lutherans deploy the devotional scapular, as a fetish to ward off misfortune and evil. The police mistakenly saw all these spiritual objects as manifestations of witchcraft, linked to the intelezi applied by the sangoma. Any miner who dallied was struck with fist and boot. After that, they were locked in crowded cells and only fed bread and tea by the evening of the 17th, their first meal since before the killings. Over the next days, their mistreatment and beatings continued. When they were brought to court, miners held at other police stations confirmed that they too had suffered beatings. It was while the witnesses to police murder were being thus intimidated that the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid), the cops who are meant to police the cops, took statements from the arrested miners.
Worse was to follow. The miners, who had initially been arrested on charges of public violence, were then charged with the murders of their slain co-workers. Prosecutors used an antiquated law known as the common-purpose doctrine under which the miners were ultimately responsible for the murder of their comrades because they should have reasonably foreseen that the strike and their presence on the koppie would have resulted in those deaths. The commonpurpose doctrine had been abused by apartheid courts in the 1980s to convict members of a crowd of murder in such political cases as the Upington 26, in which fifteen people were sentenced to death, as well as the Sharpeville Six. The Marikana murder charges would be provisionally withdrawn by early September. Mtshamba and the others were released after three weeks in jail.
Other processes were under way while the miners were in jail and the police were concocting their narrative at Roots. Ipid asked Dr Reggie Perumal, the best-known forensic pathologist in the country, to be an independent observer at the autopsies. In his almost twodecades-long professional career in private practice, Perumal had investigated some of the highest-profile criminal cases in South Africa. Perumal, in turn, called on the renowned academic Dr Steve Naidoo to assist him. They would be working for the organisation that investigates police abuses, a body that had a mixed record on combating police criminality. On the morning of 20 August, as Naidoo was on his way to the Durban airport to fly to the interior for the autopsies, his cellphone rang. It was Perumal with bad news – they had been taken off the case. Apparently the minister in the Presidency, Collins Chabane, had ordered Ipid to use only state pathologists.
Naidoo was familiar with the standard of work done in state mortuaries and was certain they would make a hash of it. The chances of justice being served if the autopsies were bungled, or purposefully sabotaged, were close to zero. He began to send out emails to his peers around the country, expressing his dismay at the state’s meddling. Within hours, Naidoo received a call from Advocate George Bizos, the legendary human rights lawyer. The soft-spoken eighty-four-year-old lawyer asked Naidoo if he would care to represent the Legal Resources Centre (LRC) as an independent observer at the autopsies. Naidoo of course agreed, asking if he could engage Perumal as his assistant. Yet they could not act just yet. To allow them to take part in the commission of inquiry, the LRC had to persuade at least one family of a deceased miner to agree to have the venerable human rights body represent them. Thus it was only on the morning of 22 August that the Durban-based pathologists got the go-ahead. As they were preparing to board their flight, Naidoo called Dr Kevin Schlesinger at the GaRankuwa mortuary, asking him to hold off starting the autopsies until they arrived; he agreed. After landing at Lanseria airport, on the northwestern rim of Johannesburg, Naidoo called Schlesinger again from their rental car, only to discover that the state pathologists had already begun cutting up the bodies. Naidoo was furious, accusing the North West province’s chief pathologist of capitulating to political pressure. Perumal grimly pressed down on the accelerator.
At Ga-Rankuwa, they were met by a handful of top provincial health officials; even the director from neighbouring Gauteng province was there. It was unusual. Perhaps it would all be okay, Naidoo thought, as he and Perumal hurriedly donned protective gear.
The smell of freshly opened bodies assailed Perumal and Naidoo as they stepped into the cavernous main dissecting room at the mortuary. The scent of ferrous blood hinted at freshly spilt warmth, even though the bodies were by then a week old. A morgue, with its sour fermented stink of gastric contents and the hint of decomposition, smells nothing like the tame butcher’s fridge. This is a smell you try to block from entering your body. The pathologists knew from experience that in ten minutes they would no longer notice it.
A dozen bodies were laid out on galvanised iron gurneys, side by side, with just enough space between them for a person to move alongside each corpse. The bodies were shrouded in silvery body bags, some closed, others open, revealing the faces of the dead and, in some cases, their wounds. Some of the bodies had had the very skin flayed off them by the doctors during the examination. One man’s exposed ribs, the flaccid skin sliced away, looked sickeningly like a side of pork ribs. The Ga-Rankuwa mortuary itself was still a work in progress and piles of rubble and building material had to be stepped over or around. The grey concrete floor was cut through with sluice canals below industrial metal grids that ran to a central drainage point. Teams of pathologists, technicians and assistants, their faces all hidden behind medical masks, were busy on the corpses. Some had their shoes covered by cloth booties, while the more experienced, or fastidious, wore wellington boots. It took a few seconds for the pathologists to recognise their peers among the group.
Perumal, with his decades of experience in dealing with obstructive state employees, drew Naidoo aside and told him that they would have to work quick and smart. Perumal would work with the two state pathologists in the large room, while Naidoo would observe in the smaller dissecting rooms, where the other two doctors were at work. Under the best of conditions, it would be trying for them, but things would soon become more difficult. While the pathologists were helpful enough, discussing their findings as they went from body to body, the state technicians were actively obstructive. To win a copy of Murder at Small Koppie,
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MARCHING ON Striking mine workers with sticks, pangas and home-made spears at Marikana on August 15 2012, a day before the massacre that claimed 34 mine workers’ lives