Negotiating with striking mineworkers at Lonmin's Marikana mine was impossible, the Farlam commission of inquiry heard on Wednesday.
"If I was in that position I would think about my own kids... Negotiation under those conditions was impossible," National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) president Senzeni Zokwana said.
He was responding to a question from advocate Dali Mpofu, representing those injured and arrested during a violent strike at the North West mine in August last year.
Mpofu asked if on 15 August — when, according to e-mails sent between Lonmin director Cyril Ramaphosa and other senior managers, the situation at the mine was relatively peaceful — Lonmin representatives could have engaged with strikers.
Zokwana maintained the situation was too volatile.
By 15 August, 10 people, including two Lonmin security guards, had been killed during the violent strike.
On 16 August, 34 striking mineworkers were shot dead and 78 wounded when police opened fire while trying to disperse a group of protesters gathered on a hill near the mine.
Zokwana agreed that at the heart of the strike was a wage demand for R12 500 a month, but he said the strike "turned".
He said only those trained to deal with crowd control could stop violence, not wage negotiators.
"It was no longer an issue of industrial relations. You needed other instruments to deal with that. The SAPS [police]."