‘I told cop to shoot at Marikana miner’

2014-04-29 17:05

Lieutenant-Colonel Salmon Vermaak has admitted that he gave the command for a police officer to shoot at a miner who was carrying an R5 rifle on August 13 2012.

The North West airwing commander is under cross-examination at the Marikana Commission of Inquiry by SAPS lawyer Ishmael Semenya SC.

Vermaak has been brought back to the commission to answer questions based on two new statements made by Constable Joseph Sekgweleya, an officer from the police’s Rustenburg cluster, and Sergeant Nkosana Mguye from the Rustenburg unit of the North West Tactical Response Team.

Vermaak today conceded that he had issued a command to shoot after miners had killed two police officers near a railway line in Marikana.

“The miner was shooting at the police and I gave the instruction that one of the officers with me must shoot at the miner who was shooting. I am the first to have the guts at this commission and say that I had given the instruction to shoot someone. As far as I remember, not one of the witnesses who have testified had the guts to testify that they gave instructions to shoot,” said Vermaak.

His evidence states that he only gave the command to shoot once, yet the two new statements state that he had instructed the officers many times to shoot at the miners as they were running toward the township.

Semenya argued that Vermaak’s version of events was improbable because there was more than one cartridge case where the incidents of August 13 took place. There was also a miner who died that day but Vermaak argued that there is no proof that the miner was killed by the officer he had instructed to shoot.

Semenya also asked Vermaak why he did not include in his testimony that he had instructed the officers to shoot.

“In all six of your statements you failed to mention that you had given the order that the tactical response team members should shoot to kill ... You did not give this information to IPID [Independent Police Investigative Directorate] when it was investigating the incident. There was nothing about this in exhibit L [an SAPS statement] either...” said Semenya.

Vermaak hit back today, saying he had not tried to hide this information and had informed his senior, Brigadier Adriaan Calitz, that he had given the command.

Vermaak was originally represented by Semenya, but he broke ranks and told the commission he was supposed to be the fall guy for the August 16 shooting, in which 34 miners were killed, but he refused to lie as instructed.

“The worrying thing is that I consulted with you [Semenya] and told you that this is what happened. Now you want to cross-examine me on that now. You had that information and you never said I must add it [the information about the order to shoot] into my statements,” said Vermaak.

The hearings resume tomorrow.

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