North West police chief Lieutenant General Zukiswa Mbombo attended an ANC torch-lighting ceremony hours before the Marikana shooting, the Farlam Commission heard on Wednesday.
Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) president Joseph Mathunjwa said after addressing workers on a hill near Lonmin's platinum mine in Marikana on 16 August, he went to the security joint operations committee to give feedback.
"We wanted to see the provincial commissioner, Madam Mbombo, because in the morning we had been told, and she confirmed, that she was now in charge of the operation," he said.
"We later saw [deputy provincial police commissioner] Lieutenant General [William] Mpembe. He told us that she was not around. He said she had gone to an ANC torch-lighting ceremony with the North West premier."
Mathunjwa said the Amcu delegation had sought answers from Mpembe about why Mbombo left at such a critical moment.
"I wanted to know how can she just leave? In the morning she had been harsh to me," Mathunjwa said.
"He [Mpembe] said he would want to contact her by phone. He moved away from us, went away and he never came back."
Mathunjwa said he had wanted to convey the status quo at the hill to the senior policewoman.
"I then phoned [Lonmin mine executive Jomo] Kwadi. He said he wanted to consult with the mine management."
Mathunjwa said Kwadi called back and said the management was not willing to meet him to discuss the workers’ requests.
According to Mathunjwa, Kwadi said the protesters' concerns should be conveyed to the police.
Mathunjwa said: "I responded by saying 'Are you insane?' What substance have you taken? Can’t you take a glass of water to be sober?
"He never responded. He switched off his phone. I called another Lonmin executive, but he said he was not involved in the processes.
"We then met with our branch committee and expressed our frustrations. I remembered what had been said by Mr [Barnard] Mokwena [also a Lonmin executive] on August 15 that police will go to the mountain and do their job. I feared for the worst."
Mathunjwa sent text messages to senior police officials, including Mpembe, and SAFM talk-show host Xolani Gwala.
"Since no person is available to give feedback, we are going to workers to tell them no one is available. Let peace prevail."
Before addressing the protesters [for a second time], Mathunjwa said e.tv interviewed him at the hill.
"I told them [the journalists] it was now out of my hands. Things were now in God's hands. I said the writing was on the wall, because it was clear police were going to shoot these people.
"The environment was getting busier; helicopters were now flying; officers in berets were arriving in numbers."
He then went to the striking mineworkers.
"I told them they are going to be killed. I told them to disperse. I gave them an example of the ram. I said when the ram retreats it doesn’t mean it is defeated, just retreat and restrategise," said Mathunjwa.
"I told them to leave that koppie [hill]."
Moments later, police opened fire on the protesters, killing 34 and wounding 78.