Bishop recalls Marikana phone call
Reverend Johannes Seoka, the Anglican bishop of Pretoria, was haunted by a telephone call he received from a protester during the August 16 shooting which left 34 striking miners dead near Lonmin’s Marikana Mine, the Farlam Commission of Inquiry heard today
“The phone rang and a voice on the other side, in Xhosa, said: 'Bishop, where are you? We are being killed’,” Seoka said.
He said he could hear gunshots and screams before the call was cut off.
“(The call) was sufficient to keep me awake for several nights.”
Seoka, who is the chairman of the Bench Marks Foundation and leader of the SA Council of Churches, said he believed he was present at the police and mine security’s joint operations centre when the order was given for action to be taken against the protesters.
Seoka had been speaking to North West police commissioner Lt-Gen Zukiswa Mbombo, who he described as anxious, when she suddenly left under the pretext of getting some food.
“Even though she was in our presence, she was not really there emotionally,” Seoka said.
There followed a flurry of police activity.
Earlier that day (August 16) Seoka had visited the protesters, who asked him to summon Lonmin chief executive Ian Farmer to bring them food and water.
Seoka visited the mine offices, where he met Lonmin vice president of human capital Barnard Mokwena.
Mokwena told him Farmer was not available because he was ill.
Mokwena said management would not meet the protesters unless they were disarmed and dispersed from the koppie, and had selected a small group to represent them.
Seoka was warned not to return to the koppie by Mokwena and police.
“We decided we must leave the area, without going back to the koppie.” He was concerned that this would erode the trust he had built up with the protesters, Seoka said.
He was driving away when he received the phone call from the scene of the conflict.