Amcu leader 'wanted to die'
"I wanted to turn back and go and die with my comrades", said Mathunjwa.
The president of Amcu wanted to go back and die with his dead colleagues when he saw them fall during police fire at Lonmin's Marikana mine, he said
"I told them to leave...I pleaded, I pleaded," Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) president Joseph Mathunjwa told reporters in Johannesburg.
Tears rolled down his cheeks as he recounted the events that led to the deaths of over 30 protesters in a clash with police on a hill near the mine on Thursday.
He said workers had earlier refused to leave, vowing to stay on the hill even if they were killed.
"We got in our cars and left... After a few minutes the phone rang [about the shooting].
"I wanted to turn back and go and die with my comrades," said Mathunjwa.
Using a handkerchief to wipe his eyes, he said Amcu leaders went to the hilltop, where the protesters had gathered, before the shooting without a police or security escort, or any supervision.
"I pleaded with them: 'The writing is on the wall, they are going to kill you'," he said.
Police opened fire on the protesters, many of whom were armed, on Thursday afternoon while trying to disperse them.
The police ministry said 34 people were believed to have been killed. The National Union of Mineworkers said 36 people had died.
Another 10 people -- including two police officers, two security guards and three NUM shop stewards -- have been killed in separate incidents since the start of an illegal strike last Friday.
Mathunjwa said he pleaded with the workers twice to leave the hilltop, near the mine where workers had gathered, but they refused.
"They wanted R12,500 [a month]," he said.