I saw cops being killed – commissioner at Marikana

2013-06-07 13:16

North West deputy provincial commissioner Major-General William Mpembe told the Marikana Commission of Inquiry how he saw two police officers being hacked to death during the Marikana unrest last year.

Mpembe today said the two officers, Tsietsi Monene and Sello Lepaku, were killed as police escorted striking mine workers on August 13.

“I heard (tear gas) shooting. I then realised that strikers had turned against police. It wasn’t a very good scene ... ,” he said.

“I saw warrant officer Monene being chopped and killed in front of me ... I saw how officer Lepaku was killed.”

Several of the officers’ family members were upset by Mpembe’s testimony and left the auditorium in Centurion.

“Captain Baloyi defended himself ... At the same time, the police came to his rescue and he was taken to hospital,” said Mpembe.

The strikers robbed the dead officers of their pistols, a shotgun and a rifle.

Mpembe said he then decided police should withdraw and return to the joint operations centre.

He later identified the officer who had fired the tear gas when the strikers turned on police.

“He said he had heard an order (to fire), but he couldn’t tell me who gave the order,” said Mpembe.

“The emotions were extremely high, but as a senior officer, I tried to cool down the members,” he added.

Mpembe said he was then approached by Lieutenant Colonel Salmon Vermaak, who told him that his life was in danger.

A statement by Vermaak stated that other officers had blamed Mpembe for the deaths of their colleagues.

They claimed to have been against Mpembe’s instruction to go after the armed strikers.

Mpembe said he told Vermaak he would not withdraw from the operation until he had handed over to Major-General Ganasen Naidoo.

The commission heard that the officers were killed just several hours after Mpembe’s arrival at Marikana.

He said he had been on leave and was called to Marikana by provincial police commissioner Major-General Luzuko Mbombo that morning.

National police commissioner General Riah Phiyega then appointed him overall commander of the operation.

The commission, chaired by retired Judge Ian Farlam, is investigating the circumstances that led to the deaths of 44 people during the unrest at Lonmin’s platinum mine in Marikana last year.

Police shot dead 34 striking mine workers on August 16. Another 10 people, including two police officers and two security guards, were killed in the preceding week.

Mpembe, led by Vuyani Ngalwana, is delivering his evidence-in-chief before the commission.

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