"Political considerations" caused Marikana: Mpofu SC

By Drum Digital
12 November 2014

Police acted on "political considerations" and ignored their constitutional obligations when they dispersed protesting Marikana miners on August 16, 2012, the Farlam Commission of Inquiry heard on Wednesday.

"Throughout the week, from the Saturday [August 11] relatively speaking, we had the quietest period. It is in that period the tragedy took place. The only explanation is provided in what I call the smoking gun of Marikana," said Dali Mpofu SC, for the wounded and arrested Marikana miners.

He referred the inquiry to a dialogue between North West police chief Lt-Gen Zukiswa Mbombo and Lonmin mine executives two days before the August 16, 2012, shooting.

In a transcript of the meeting Mbombo was recorded as saying: "At Impala [Economic Freedom Fighters leader Julius] Malema came with our premier and spoke to those people, and ourselves, as the police, we managed to manage the situation after Malema came," referring to North West premier Thandi Modise.

"Our discussion with the national commissioner [Riah Phiyega] was around this thing now happening, to say again, Malema come and defuse this thing. It becomes as if Malema has taken charge of the mining, the mine."

Mbombo hinted at Malema's campaign to nationalise South Africa's mines. She said the Marikana stand-off had to be defused by "moving in to kill it" before Malema arrived on the scene.

Mpofu said the extract was "chilling reading" and Mbombo's actions were "disgraceful".

"What is that, chairperson? How can a police official say 'I don't want violent conflict to be resolved'? How can she say 'if I have to choose between political considerations and the resolution of the violence, I choose the violence'? This is a disgrace," he said.

"What are we looking for? We can't sit here for two years and look for reasons why this massacre occurred when it is in front of us."

In February, Mbombo was questioned at the inquiry regarding her interventions at Marikana.

Commission chairman, retired judge Ian Farlam, had at the time asked Mbombo: "I understand you were saying to your commanders they had to act very quickly before Mr Malema could come."

Farlam said he wanted to know if a visit by Malema, and him giving a speech like he had done at Impala Platinum's mine, would aggravate matters.

Mbombo said there was nothing wrong with Malema's speech delivered previously at the Impala mine.

"What I foresaw would create a problem was that when we allow people whose intentions we did not know to come in and talk to the people, some of them could say things that could aggravate the situation," she said.

Farlam said Malema could obviously not be included in this group of people, judging from his previous conduct in defusing the situation at Impala's mine.

"Why did you say the possibility of Mr Malema coming and once again defusing the situation in the manner he had done at Impala introduced 'a serious political connotation' such that you told your commanders to 'kill' this thing?"

Mbombo said she was not against Malema's visit. But police were always concerned when people wanted to address protesters in such volatile situations.

"The truth is that it is something that we always want to know, whether that person is bringing any help and what their intention is," she said at the time.

The commission is probing the deaths of 44 people at Lonmin's platinum mining operations in Marikana, near Rustenburg, in North West, during a violent wage-related strike in August 2012.

Thirty-four people, mostly striking mineworkers, were shot dead in a clash with police on August 16.

Over 70 people were wounded and over 200 were arrested. Police were apparently trying to disarm and disperse them.

In the preceding week, 10 people, including two policemen and two Lonmin security guards, were killed.

-SAPA

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