A leader of radical South African union AMCU was shot dead after being named in an inquiry into a deadly police crackdown during violent strikes at a platinum mine two years ago, a lawyer said Wednesday.
Bongani “Bhayi” Mehlonkomo, a secretary for the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU), was gunned down on Tuesday as he returned from work at the Lonmin platinum mine in Marikana, police and the union said.
“He was a leader of AMCU. The union is horrified and deeply saddened by his murder,” said the union’s lawyer Heidi Barnes.
Last week a miner who testified as a police witness at the inquiry implicated Mehlonkomo in the brutal murders of police officers and security guards during violent unrest in August 2012 at the Lonmin platinum mine in Marikana.
Police shot dead 34 strikers on August 16 that year, following a week of inter-union skirmishes that left 10 dead.
Mehlonkomo’s assassination is the latest in a string of suspect murders in the restive platinum belt northwest of Johannesburg, plagued by turf wars between AMCU and its rival the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM).
Since the start of an inquiry into the bloodshed, dozens of people — including witnesses — have been killed, including at least seven officials of both unions.
Dali Mpofu, the lawyer who represents miners wounded and arrested during the unrest, said Mehlonkomo’s murder may have been linked to his implication by the police witness, identified only as Mr X.
“Speculation in the community is that the assassination is connected to the mentioning of names by Mr X,” said Mpofu.
Mr X testified via video-link up and his identity is kept secret.
“There is growing concern among the people that I represent,” said Mpofu.
“Their fear is that those who have been implicated falsely feel that their lives are under threat. They are not under protection and are vulnerable.”
The assassinations prompted renewed calls to step up policing from commission head, retired Appeals Court Judge Ian Farlam.
“There are quite a number of deaths already in the Marikana saga,” he said Wednesday.