Trade union Amcu on expressed shock at the murder of one of its senior officials Bongani “Bhayi” Mehlonkomo, in Marikana, near Rustenburg in the North West.
“He was a leader of Amcu. The union is horrified and deeply saddened by his murder,” Heidi Barnes, for the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu), told the Farlam Commission of inquiry’s public hearings in Pretoria.
“Amcu wishes to send condolences to his family and calls for a full and swift investigation into the circumstances of his murder.”
Mehlonkomo was shot dead in Marikana on his way home from work on Tuesday. He was an Amcu secretary at Lonmin’s Roland Shaft.
Dali Mpofu SC, for miners arrested and wounded during strike-related violence in Marikana in August 2012, told the commission his clients were petrified.
“There is growing concern among the people that I represent. Speculation in the community is that the assassination is connected to the mentioning of names by Mr X,” said Mpofu.
“Their fear is that those who have been implicated falsely feel that their lives are under threat. They are not under protection and are vulnerable.”
Police witness “Mr X” may not be identified and is testifying via video link from an undisclosed location. He is under witness protection.
Mpofu said Mr X had mentioned Bhayi repeatedly at the inquiry, implicating him in the August 2012 murders of police officers and Lonmin security guards.
Under cross-examination last week, Mr X was asked by Takalani Masevhe, for the family of slain Warrant Officer Tsietsi Monene, to name the person who shot the policeman at close range.
After much hesitation, Mr X said those responsible were a protester Tholakele, popularly known as “Bhele”, and Bongani, popularly known as “Bhayi”. He said he did not know their surnames.
“I want to apologise because these men said I should not mention their names. I communicate with the men of Marikana. They must tell the truth,” said Mr X.
Monene was one of two officers hacked and shot dead on 13 August 2012 after police clashed with protesting miners.
On Wednesday, commission chairperson retired judge Ian Farlam urged police to take swift action to curb the murders of people linked to the inquiry.
“There are quite a number of deaths already in the Marikana saga. I would ask the police to redouble their efforts to ensure violence of this kind is not allowed to continue,” he said at the inquiry.
“Certainly it’s a matter of grave concern to us all, not just the commission, but I am sure the whole country.”
The commission is investigating the deaths of 44 people during strike-related violence at Lonmin’s platinum mining operations at Marikana in 2012.
Police shot dead 34 people, mostly striking mineworkers, wounded over 70, and arrested 250 on 16 August 2012, apparently while trying to disarm and disperse them.
In the preceding week, 10 people, including the two policemen and two security guards, were killed.
In August 2013, Farlam expressed concern about a spate of murders around Marikana.
“It is a matter of concern because a number of people connected to this commission have been assassinated. It is a matter which I am sure is receiving attention from the authorities,” he said.
Farlam made the remarks after National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) branch chairperson William Setelele was shot dead at Marikana. He testified at the inquiry in January and February 2013.
Another NUM official, branch secretary Dalivuyo Bongo, was killed on 5 October 2012. He was shot six times at his home at the Wonderkop hostel complex.
At the time of Bongo’s death, the NUM said he was set to present key information to the commission.
Amcu’s potential key witness at the inquiry Mawethu Steve was killed in a tavern in May 2013 before he could testify. His death triggered suspected reprisal hits on two NUM members, twin brothers, the same evening.
Another Amcu leader’s decomposing body was found near an Xstrata mine in Limpopo in June 2013. His hands and feet and been bound.
The sangoma who apparently performed the rituals on the Marikana mineworkers was shot and killed in Bizana, Eastern Cape, in March 2013.
Alton Joja, 69, was at his home when several armed men confronted him, police said at the time.