It’s been four-and-a-half years since the Marikana Massacre. This weekend the sons of one of the mineworkers, Modisaotsile Van Wyk Sagalala, found out how their father allegedly died. By GREG NICOLSON.
No one knows exactly when Modisaotsile Van Wyk Sagalala died. The 60-year-old was shot twice by police on 16 August 2012, at Marikana’s deadly “scene two”. The circumstances were never fully explained.
Sagalala was the sole breadwinner for his mother and two sons, Hendrik and David. Preparing for retirement, he had started building his dream home.
“I want to see where my father died and how he died,” his son, David Sagalala, told the Marikana Commission of Inquiry. “I want those responsible for his death to be arrested and brought to justice because everyone who breaks the law must be held accountable.”
According to police, Sagalala was one of three people who died in hospital, but four-and-a-half years after the Marikana Massacre evidence has emerged that he died in a police vehicle at a detention centre, and multiple police officers lied to cover-up the circumstances of his death.
The Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID) has been investigating SAPS officials since the 2015 release of retired Judge Ian Farlam’s Marikana Inquiry report. IPID spokesperson Moses Dlamini told Daily Maverick, “IPID has evidence to prove that the deceased died in the police canter at the detention centre.” He added, “The matter was never revealed during the Farlam Judicial Commission of Inquiry.”
The Marikana report said it was not possible to ascertain the precise location where Sagalala was shot, but it was somewhere at “scene two”, dubbed the “killing koppie”. Describing the shooting of Sagalala and another striker, Molefi Osiel Ntsoele, lawyers for the families of the deceased mineworkers told the commission “there is simply no information about how they were killed. It isn’t even known where in koppie three they were shot and killed. The only reasonable conclusion therefore is that they were killed unlawfully.”
The commission believed SAPS’s claim Sagalala died at the Andrew Saffy Memorial Hospital. IPID, however, has evidence he died while being transported to a detention centre. Dlamini said there are photographs, observation book entries, and statements from SAPS members deployed to the detention centre “and they concur that indeed the victim died in the police canter at the detention centre.” The first reports of the alleged crimes came in an update from the Presidency last year and IPID outlined aspects of the allegations in Parliament last week.
The crime scene at the detention centre was never reported to IPID, which has recommended prosecutions should proceed for cases of non-compliance and defeating the ends of justice. The investigation is complete and IPID has recommended charges be laid against the four officials responsible for managing the detention centre: Major General William Mpembe, Brigadier Jacobus Van Zyl, and two other suspects we only know as Colonel Madoda, and Lieutenant-Colonel Pule.
Daily Maverick was unable to get further comment before deadline from Dlamini on whether Sagalala’s death could have been avoided if he received timely medical care and why cases of culpable homicide haven’t been opened.
Statements given by striking mineworkers to IPID, which Daily Maverick has seen, include graphic details that likely refer to Sagalala:
“We were then put in the police truck and inside the truck there was an African male who was shot on his chest and was bleeding. We told the police that someone was shot but they said that he must die because we also killed the police,” reads one statement.
“One guy was shot in the chest and was put in the truck while injured. I notified the police that there is a person who needs help as he is injured. The police officers said he is fine, let him die,” reads another.
Yet another: “We also reported to the police officers that there was a person who will die. They never listen to us. On arrival at B3 that person passed away.” B3 is a part of mining company Lonmin’s facilities in Marikana where arrested miners were initially detained and processed before they were taken to police stations.
Dlamini said it’s still unclear how Sagalala ended up at Andrew Saffy Memorial Hospital, but his body was collected there by the Phokeng government mortuary and given the designation “body 33”. A total of 34 people were killed by police on 16 August, with 10 people killed in the preceding week, seven killed by the striking mineworkers and three by police.
The Sagalala family first heard about IPID’s case this weekend:
“The family wants the whole truth to come out and for justice to be done,” said Hendrik Sagalala, Modisaotsile Van Wyk Sagalala’s son. “The commission of inquiry process did not go far enough in investigating the circumstances of my father’s death. Almost five years after, we still don’t see any justice and we cannot find closure.”
Representing the families of the deceased mineworkers, Socio-Economic Rights Institute (SERI) attorney Keamogetswe Thobakgale said:
“The contempt and indignity with which the criminal justice system has treated the Marikana victims is appalling.”
The commission of inquiry sat for over 300 days and the Claassen Board of Inquiry was established to investigate suspended National Police Commissioner Riah Phiyega’s role regarding Marikana, but families are yet to see any real accountability.
“We have written to IPID and the NPA, on instructions from the families, inquiring about criminal investigations and prosecutions against the police. It is the loved ones of these families who were killed,” said Thobakgale, claiming neither institution has been forthcoming with information.
The SAPS was criticised for failing to disclose certain information to the Marikana Commission of Inquiry and the Farlam report even has a section titled, “The consequences of the SAPS attempt to mislead the Commission”. In 2012, before the commission, police met in Potchefstroom to prepare for the inquiry. Evidence leaders called the meeting an “exculpatory exercise” and claimed “there is a complete absence of any self-criticism in Exhibit L” – the police version of events drafted at the Potchefstroom meeting and presented at the inquiry. The Farlam report said the police leaders decided to mislead the commission by not revealing when the decision to “go tactical” came about and national and provincial SAPS leaders signed off on Exhibit L, which did not offer a truthful version of the events.
SAPS spokesperson Brigadier Sally de Beer on Monday was brief in her response to the claims stemming from IPID’s investigation. “The department respects the mandate of IPID to conduct investigations. We are awaiting the outcome of IPID’s investigations into this matter which will inform internal processes as provided for in our disciplinary code,” she said.
National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) spokesperson Luvuyo Mfaku on Monday said prosecutors are still analysing and evaluating evidence regarding the Sagalala case:
“No decision has been taken to prosecute any person(s) in relation to the Farlam Commission report.”
Sagalala’s death in custody also raises the issue of timeous medical treatment. Mineworker Bongani Mdze died during the massacre after suffering shotgun wounds to his upper arm (it’s still unknown who fired the shotgun rounds at the miners, as SAPS had previously withdrawn the ammunition from operational use). Mdze had a 90 percent chance of survival if police applied a basic tourniquet. Literally, a sock could have saved his life. Instead, he bled to death. The commission recommended future SAPS operations should ensure those injured receive adequate and speedy first aid. Sagalala’s case suggests another life might have been saved if police provided rapid medical assistance.
This week SERI is embarking on a campaign to raise awareness about the slow progress on behalf the state and Lonmin in ensuring justice for the families of those killed and the injured and arrested mineworkers. On Human Rights Day, the group will launch a video and throughout its campaign will call for a genuine apology from the state and Lonmin, for police officers involved in the Marikana operation to be criminally charged, and for victims to be paid compensation. DM
Photo: Lonmin employees gather on a hill called Wonderkop at Marikana, August 15, 2012. Photograph Greg Marinovich / Daily Maverick