Fracas over pamphlets at Marikana commission

2013-03-26 16:39

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Police officers and lawyers were involved in an altercation at the Rustenburg Civic Centre over pamphlets bearing a message calling for “police not to get away with murder”.

The incident, which one of the lawyers described as “a mild altercation” happened during a break at the Marikana Commission of Inquiry today.

Ironically, it happened on a day in which national police commissioner General Riah Phiyega was being grilled before the commission about police training methods and the militarisation of the police.

A group of police officers in uniform moved in on a group of people gathered on the gardens of the civic centre and demanded that they move away from the venue.

The group, wearing T-shirts saying “Marikana Support Campaign”, brandished placards that read, “Do not let the police get away with murder”.

They chanted slogans while being filmed by a crew in what appeared to be a staged picket. But after police moved in on them, they moved away slowly.

This didn’t seem to satisfy police, however, as they then moved on to the balcony where lawyers, journalists and members of the public were having lunch.

There, they confiscated pamphlets from people as well as those placed on wooden benches.

They were heard telling some of those holding placards to “take them to the street”.

Advocate Dumisa Ntsebeza, who represents families of the mine workers who were killed during the Marikana shootings, found himself caught up in the fracas.

Ntsebeza was standing with his team of lawyers when the police approached him, aggressively demanding that he hand over a communism pamphlet on which was written “Keep Left”.

Ntsebeza refused, asking them for a reason. But one of the police officers told him to speak like a madala (old man), not like a youngster.

Another lawyer, Teboho Mosikili, who was holding a pile of placards under his arm, was also targeted.

“Take your things out there,” ordered one of the officers.

Mosikili stood his ground, saying he was not displaying the placards.

Another lawyer who asked the police what was going on was rudely told she could not order the police around.

When proceedings resumed, Ntsebeza raised the matter with commission chairperson, retired judge Ian Farlam, who appealed for calm and for the parties to resolve the matter harmoniously.

Human rights lawyer George Bizos, who witnessed the fracas, said it would have been good public relations for the police to ignore the demonstration. Police lawyer Ishmael Semenya SC said the matter would be investigated.

The hearing continues.

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