Cop quizzed over Marikana shooting

By Drum Digital
30 October 2013

Why did police continue shooting at Marikana last year despite repeated "cease-fire calls" from officers?

Why did police continue shooting at Marikana last year despite repeated "cease-fire calls" from officers, a lawyer asked on Wednesday. Michelle le Roux, for the SA Human Rights Commission (SAHRC), raised the question in Pretoria at public hearings of the Farlam Commission of Inquiry into last year's events at Marikana, near Rustenburg in North West.

She was cross-examining Lt-Col Duncan Scott about the shooting near Lonmin's platinum mining operations at Marikana.

Le Roux based some of her questions on the affidavits of experts, including Gary White, an international public order policing expert who was asked by the SAHRC to submit an analysis on the shootings.

"In light of the analysis that there were still rifles being used 55 seconds after the first call for cease-fire, certainly after the volley [of bullets] which lasted for only eight seconds, are you aware of any possible threats that were still being perceived by your members at that time?"

Ishmael Semenya, SC, for the police, objected. He said Scott would not be able to give an accurate response as he was not with those police officers at the Marikana hill. "Are we asking the witness to give us hearsay on the matter? How accurate can that be? How can this witness ever be able to answer that question?" Semenya protested and commission chairman, retired judge Ian Farlam, asked Le Roux to rephrase her question.

Le Roux then asked: "Are you aware of any information or the threat existing after the eight seconds volley that would justify the use of rifles [by the police]?"

Scott said he did not know about the threat that justified the use of rifles. Previously, Scott has told the commission the state had an obligation to subdue the violent Lonmin mineworkers' strike at Marikana. He said the strike had created an exceptional situation and the police had to intervene. "I think we can agree that Marikana was an exceptional situation, looking at the preceding days' history. The SA Police Service, as the authority of the state, had to act," said Scott.

"This [strike] was not something that was simply going to die down. At some stage the police needed to act in order to restore law and order to the area." Scott largely drafted the plan which was to be used to disperse and disarm the striking mineworkers. It was referred to as the "Scott plan". Last week, Scott said shooting miners was not part of the plan, but came down to the actions of individual police officers. The Farlam commission is investigating the deaths of 44 people during strike-related unrest at Lonmin platinum's operations at Marikana last year.

The police shot dead 34 people, mostly striking mineworkers, wounded 70, and arrested 250 on August 16, 2012. In the preceding week, 10 people, including two policemen and two security guards, were killed.

-by Sapa

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