Marikana: ‘Police were scared’

2013-01-21 16:33

A lawyer representing the families of 34 mineworkers killed by police at Marikana in August last year has argued that the police operation that led to the deaths appeared to have been “set up from the perspective of police who were scared”.

Advocate Dumisa Ntsebeza SC said during cross examination of Brigadier Zephania Mkhwanazi during the Marikana Commission of Inquiry hearings that there had been no need to deploy the Special Task Force, National Intervention Unit and the Tactical Reaction Team to deal with the gathering.

Ntsebeza criticised the police’s tactics and questioned the use of barbed wire, saying it had the potential to cause a stampede.

Police applied barbed wire before opening fire on protesting miners on August 16 last year, killing 34 people and injuring 78.

Ntsebeza argued that the police should have instead called up public order policing units from other areas to “saturate the area” with thousands of police officers.

Ntsebeza also questioned the police’s decision to put officers whose expertise is in the fields of counter insurgency, terrorism, cash-in-transit heists and hostage situations in command of the operation to disperse the miners.

He said the situation called for the intervention of a skilled public order policing negotiator who would create an environment for a peaceful protest by the workers. Ntsebeza said police could have used less lethal methods such as deploying more water water cannons than the ones deployed on the day, pepper spray, teargas and rubber bullets.

Mkhwanazi has been called in to testify as a public order policing unit expert, but so far he has been unable to provide insight into the planning that went into the operation as he was not part of the events before or even during the shooting.

He told commission chairperson retired judge Ian Farlam that he had difficulty answering questions put to him by Ntsebeza on a “yes” or “no” basis. This was after Farlam had reprimanded him for “wasting time” when answering questions as he attempted to offer explanations to his answers.

Farlam granted Mkhwanazi the go-ahead to qualify his answers after he explained that some decisions that were taken could need explanation.

The hearing continues.

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