I was not part of ritual - survivor

GRILLED: Siphethe Phatsha, who is testifying at the Marikana Commission of Inquiry, denies being one of the men who were at the forefront as warriors during the Marikana massacre . Photo: Tsheko Kabasia
GRILLED: Siphethe Phatsha, who is testifying at the Marikana Commission of Inquiry, denies being one of the men who were at the forefront as warriors during the Marikana massacre . Photo: Tsheko Kabasia

A SURVIVOR of the Marikana massacre yesterday claimed not to have taken part in a ritual by a distinct group of "warriors" on the day of the fateful Marikana shootings.

This had involved the burning of live sheep to mix with muti and the cutting of small incisions in the men's bodies to make them brave enough to confront the police, or make them invisible to bullets.

This was despite Siphethe Phatsha being pointed out in video footage of a group of men, divided from the rest, who were sitting with their inculas (sharpened iron rods), pangas and knobkerries on August 16 last year - the day police shot and killed 34 miners.

This is the same day that striking miners were also allegedly shot at by the National Union of Mineworkers, an incident that is believed to have triggered the massacre.

But Phatsha claimed not to know anything in reference to a crowning ceremony, nor the existence of the "warrior" group, saying the only makarapa he knew was the metal hat (protective helmet) worn on his head to protect himself underground.

He said everyone who had gathered at the koppie was demanding a pay hike to R12500.

"I was not there .," Phatsha said. "I never heard about it. I never saw anyone performing a ritual."

Phatsha's world came crashing down however when police counsel Advocate Ishmael Semenya revealed that he did in fact, like 17 of the 34 miners killed on August 16, have incisions on his body.

A startled Phatsha replied: "I am now a man of God, and no longer use or do those things."

Challenged about his answer and asked how he had received the incisions, Phatsha talked about his aching and itchy body.

He insisted he had found "Christ", and had not done "those things in 10 years".

Phatsha also refused a request by Semenya to subject himself to a medical evaluation to ascertain how old his wounds were.

Semenya claimed requests for R20 donations to transport the sangoma from Bizana in the Eastern Cape were made and that each "warrior" was charged R500 for "the services rendered".

Semenya disputed Phatsha's claims that police shot at them in cold blood as they tried to go home without any provocation. He argued that a group of 200 miners, which Phatsha was part of, had fired the first shots and charged at police while the rest of the striking miners dispersed peacefully. - nhlabathih@sowetan.co.za

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