Police book contradicts Marikana ‘self-defence’ argument

2013-04-21 06:00

A disturbing call came through to the Marikana police station just three days before police opened fire and killed 34 mine workers.

A security guard warned a warrant officer on duty that there was a mob planning to attack the police station that night.

The mob wanted police firearms and the attack, said the caller, would be carried out on the night of August 13.

This is one of the entries in the police occurrence book (OB), a copy of which was handed in as evidence before the Marikana Commission of Inquiry this week.

The OB, which contains 1 353 entries, captures incidents that occurred in Marikana between Sunday, August 12 and Saturday, August 18 last year. It paints a picture of the chaos that reigned in the five days in which 44 people died.

Earlier, on August 13, before news of the planned attack reached police ears, five men, including two police officers, died in a bloody battle in an open field west of Marikana. They perished during a clash between armed miners and police trying to stop them entering a squatter camp en route to join thousands of striking colleagues at a koppie near the Nkaneng informal settlement.

In one case of intimidation entered in the book, a man on his way to work was forced to strip naked and was robbed off R50, apparently by striking miners who disapproved of him ignoring the strike.

The OB also shows that police brought in reinforcements from as far away as Mthatha, Durban, Bloemfontein and Mafikeng.

Entries made between 3.55pm and 7.20pm on the day 34 men were shot dead and 78 injured paints a grim picture of the chaos that reigned during those 30 minutes.

After an entry that “people” were moving from the koppie at 3.45pm, police enter 10 minutes later: “Papa 1 reporting the group are moving to TRT (tactical response team) members and they try to attack them. Papa 1 reporting that the people are moving around and some are down...”

Then at 3.56pm: “18 bodies are down...”

But a 4.05pm entry stands in stark contrast to the police’s assertion that they shot and killed another 18 men, away from the scene of the first shooting, in self-defence.

“People are now in formed circle and sitted down (sic) the people want to come out of the koppie and surrender,” the OB shows.

At 4.30pm: “Papa 1 reported that they shot 5 life (sic) ammunition from nyala, 13 need medical attention and 25 dead.”

National police commissioner General Riah Phiyega stunned the commission this week when testifying that she could not confirm that the 34 people who died that day were shot and killed by police.

Lawyer for the dead miners’ families, Dumisa Ntsebeza, asked her if she accepted their deaths at police hands was “common cause”.

She replied: “I understand that 34 miners were killed – by who, I will not go there.”

Ntsebeza hinted at a police cover-up when he asked why there was no video footage of police helicopters, water cannons and police personnel, which captured the events.

A police witness who attended a SA Police Service meeting to prepare for the commission last year, testified that they were told there was video footage taken by the police, but it was not shown.

Ntsebeza asked Phiyega if this was because it didn’t exist or because it wasn’t made available.

Phiyega responded that she was told there was no video footage because police videographers were removed from the koppie where the miners gathered, because their lives were in danger.

Phiyega has maintained that her commanding officers would provide answers to operational matters.

On Friday, emotional family members walked out of the hearing and others sat, heads bowed and fighting back tears as Ntsebeza quizzed Phiyega about statements she made in the days after the shooting.

He argued that Phiyega praised the police’s conduct during the August 16 operation because she had only been in office for 63 days and had to be seen to be acting.

Four days later, she told officers that they displayed “responsible policing” and should applaud themselves. She also expressed sympathy and offered condolences to the families.

But in a statement by the families Ntsebeza read out, they rejected Phiyega’s “insincere” condolences, demanding a full apology instead.

During her first day on the stand on March 14, Phiyega repeated her condolences, causing one of the dead miners’ relatives, Songstress Nothukile Nkonyeni, to break down. She is the sister of Sokhanyile Nkonyeni, shot dead, allegedly by police, on August 13.

Ntsebeza said Sokhanyile’s mother suffered a fatal heart attack after hearing of his death. His sister, one of the 11 people he supported, could not understand how Phiyega could praise police for killing him.

“We can flog this thing up and down negatively and positively. I have feelings, and I understand, and my apology was very, very considered. Police shall never applaud death,” said Phiyega.

Phiyega returns to the witness stand tomorrow.

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