Police ‘failed citizens’ by shooting miners

2012-08-29 14:11

Police failed the public when they shot and killed 34 mineworkers instead of cordoning off the hill which was used as a gathering spot for striking Marikana miners, the Ga-Rankuwa Magistrates’ Court heard this morning.

This was one of the arguments presented by attorney Lesego Mmusi, who represents the 259 mineworkers who were arrested when 34 miners were mowed down during labour protests two weeks ago.

Mmusi was leading arguements for the defence against the State’s application to postpone the bail hearing for a week.

Mmusi said any postponement, without a shred of evidence linking the accused to the murders of 34 people, including the 10 who were killed prior to the massacre, would be tantamount to infringing on the rights of ordinary citizens.

“The State’s case is really dead. Even if there was still some oxygen left in it...the application for postponement should kill it (State’s case),” said Mmusi.

He argued that the admission by North West head of detectives, Brigadier Jacobus van Zyl during his testimony on Monday, that up to 5000 miners gathered on a hill every morning and left at night, was proof that police had failed to prevent the massacre.

“Van Zyl said the people left at night. Why didn’t the police move into that hill, cordon it off at night and prevent people from taking over the hill?” he asked.

“The state has failed the citizens. The police did not employ reasonable means to secure the mountain when the protesters had dispersed and went home at night.”

Mmusi said the State’s application for a postponement was merely a desperate attempt to frustrate the defence’s case for bail to be granted.

He said two men who sustained gunshot wounds during the Marikana massacre, part of the 259 people accused of murder and public violence, had not received medical treatment since their arrest on August 16.

Mmusi said the continued detention of the 259 miners would be in breach of the rights to freedom, dignity, a fair trial and healthcare as some of the accused, living with HIV and suffering from tuberculosis, have not received their treatment since their arrest almost two weeks ago.

The defence asked the court to release the miners and allow police to continue their investigation.

But the State argued that it would be difficult to locate the accused at a later stage if evidence was uncovered directly linking them to any of the dead bodies.

The fact that President Jacob Zuma instituted a judicial commission of inquiry into the massacre was evidence that many processes, not only the police investigations, were still to be followed, said Mmusi.

The defence painted a picture of a State desperate to keep the accused detained on murder charges, which is a schedule six offence, without enough evidence.

According to the law, suspects accused of schedule six offences, including rape, murder and armed robbery, must apply for bail.

Mmusi argued that the accused may have committed public violence, which is a schedule one offence, which doesn’t require a bail application.

Mmusi said the fact that Van Zyl admitted in court that police were still to obtain evidence linking any of the 259 accused to the murders of 34 mineworkers or the 10 killed before them, including two police officers and a security guard, amounted to unfair justice.

Some of the accused were innocent “bystanders” who were simply watching the events unfold as police clashed with mineworkers, said Mmusi.

He said the fact that some of the accused were assaulted by police in holding cells was an affront to justice that should mitigate in the accused’s bail application.

State attorney Nigel Carpenter said the State was yet to confer murder charges on the accused but “intended” doing so when investigations were at an advanced stage.

Carpenter rejected claims that police had done nothing to verify the addresses of the accused, which is the main reason that the State and the police opposed bail and asked for a postponement.

“I’ve got nothing linking them (mineworkers) to the murders at this stage, but that doesn’t mean there wont be anything. We still need to investigate,” said Carpenter.

He rejected the defence’s assertion that there was no proof, or that the accused were assaulted in custody.

The case continues.

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