Marikana commander critical of police plan

2013-04-04 15:58

The commander of the Marikana operation was critical of the police’s plan, evidence before the Marikana Commission of Inquiry suggests.

SA Human Rights Commission lawyer Gcina Malindi read parts of a statement made by Major General William Mpembe, who was the commander of the Marikana operation to break up an illegal, armed protest by striking mine workers.

In the statement, which has not yet been registered as an exhibit, Mpembe is quoted as saying if he knew that people had been killed in the first shooting incident when police opened fire on advancing mine workers, he would have ordered officers not to pursue mine workers who had retreated behind rocks at a koppie a few hundred metres away.

In the first shooting incident near a cattle kraal, police shot and killed 16 mine workers, and in another scene, dubbed Kleinkoppie, where journalists had no access, a further 18 were shot and killed.

National Police Commissioner Riah Phiyega, who was being cross-examined by Malindi, has stuck to her guns, saying the police had a proper plan which was disrupted, resulting in the deaths.

But Mpembe’s statement is the first by a senior officer which is critical of the police plan.

Legal Resources Centre lawyer George Bizos SC has previously argued that Phiyega, whom he called an unreliable witness, was not prepared to say anything critical about the police.

Phiyega was quizzed further this morning about differences in her statement. Lonmin lawyer Schalk Burger SC asked Phiyega to explain why she had written a “factually incorrect draft” of her statement.

This was after questions were raised as to why she had not signed a page in her final statement.

In her initial statement, Phiyega said she had relayed information about police plans to implement their plan to encircle, disperse and arrest mine workers to Minister of Police Nathi Mthethwa.

But her final statement, which was submitted as an exhibit to the commission, does not contain that detail.

She said the information was incorrect, which was the reason it had been omitted.

Phiyega, out of frustration, even resorted to speaking in her mother tongue, Sepedi, to explain herself, and offered to provide the commission with her laptop to ascertain her version.

Phiyega said she did not know if Mthethwa was going to testify before the commission.

The hearing continues.

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