Press Statement on Ongoing Detention and Prosecution of Marikana Activists
Attention: Editors and News Desks
Monday 6 February 2017
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
On 8th December 2016, at 16.45 a tragic murder took place in Marikana. Between the 12 December 2016 and 6 January 2017, four community leaders, who work at Lonmin Marikana Mine, were arrested in connection with the murder and appeared in Bafokeng court.
Allegations of torture, including use of electric shocks have been made by the accused. Accused number one, Audrey Seitsang, urinated blood for two weeks as a result of the electric shocks to his genitals. The court on four occasions has ordered the police to assist the accused to open charges of assault, to be given medical attention and to be taken to the district surgeon for medical forensic recording of their injuries. To date the police have not complied with this order.
On 6th January 2017 two others were arrested, Napoleon Webster, a member of the elected ward committee who chairs the Marikana Unemployment Forum. Napoleon has been vocal in advocating for the needs of the community to be met. He was a high profile activist during the Marikana Commission of Inquiry and led the chant of “Blood on his hands,” when Cyril Ramaphosa appeared to give evidence in August 2014. This was broadcast on several news channels on the day.
Napoleon was arrested because accused number one, Audrey Seitsang, signed a statement claiming that Napoleon Webster was with him at the time of the murder. Audrey Seitsang has subsequently said that the statement was obtained under torture and that Napoleon was not there.
Napoleon’s activism is important as we believe it explains why he is being targeted by the police. For example, recently he has been involved in activism around:
- Justice for the Marikana victims and calling for charges to be laid against those responsible including William Mpembe, the former Deputy Commissioner of the North West province. Mpembe is now working at the Tharisa Mine as head of security.
- An end to interference with the community by the same William Mpembe.
- Lonmin’s refusal to fulfil its Social Labour Plan obligation to build houses for the miners still living in deplorable conditions Marikana.
- The occupation of newly constructed RDP houses.
The other five accused are mineworkers that were involved in the 2012 strike for R12,500 that resulted in the Marikana massacre. One of them is a committee member of the Marikana Support Campaign. They are respected leaders that have been openly demanding the implementation of the Social Labour Plan by Lonmin Mine and the government.
Napoleon has openly condemned the murder, and argues that it happened as a direct result of tensions in the community arising from Lonmin failing to carry out its socio-economic obligations. He believes that the police were using the fact that a crime had been committed to target activists. This meant they were unlikely to discover and arrest the real perpetrator behind the murder.
During the weekend of his arrest, the police allegedly tortured Napoleon. He says that during the torture not one question asked had to do with the murder, but rather that all the questions asked were focused on his community activism and in particular on his housing rights activism.
Strong evidence was led at the bail hearing that Napoleon was nowhere near the scene of the crime at the time. Despite requests it seems the state is not willing to assist in the corroboration of his alibi. In fact the prosecutor objected to a court order for CCTV footage being obtained from Shoprite and Standard Bank that would prove he could not have been at the murder at the time. The court upheld the objection and said the evidence could be obtained during trial.
On Monday 8th January 2016, Napoleon made his first appearance in court on the murder charge. The magistrate ordered that he and the other accused (now 6 of them) be taken for medical treatment, be assisted to open a case and be taken to the district surgeon. This was court order number 5. Lawyers made themselves available to assist with the taking of statements. This court order was again not followed by the police.
Since the first court appearances there have been several postponements. It would appear to be a deliberate effort to delay the bail hearing as long as possible to ensure that the accused are kept in prison for a long time. All of the above has resulted in Napoleon Webster being detained for over 25 days and the others for two months. Meanwhile, their families, including young children, are suffering as a result of loss of income.
We, the Marikana Support Campaign, call for the immediate release on bail of all six accused.
If bail is not granted we will be launching a campaign across civil society for their release on bail.
Napoleon’s bail hearing takes place on Tuesday 7th February, Bafokeng Magistrates Court, 9am, Motsatsi Street, Tlhabane, Rustenburg, 0309, South Africa.
For further information contact:
Nigel Branken 083 341 2385
Social Worker and member of Marikana Support Campaign