Chopper cops unaware of Marikana shooting

2012-10-30 16:51
Ian Farlam (Lucky Nxumalo, City Press)

Ian Farlam (Lucky Nxumalo, City Press)

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Rustenburg - Police in a helicopter circling Marikana on the day 34 mineworkers were killed were unaware that there had been a shooting, the Farlam Commission heard on Tuesday.

"We know scene one [where 16 people were killed near the Kraal] was not recorded," said Lonmin's lawyer Schalk Burger.

"We know the second scene [behind the small hill] was not recorded [either] because you did not know it had happened."

Burger was cross-examining crime scene technician Lietenant Colonel Cornelius Johannes Botha, who was tasked with recording the dispersing-and-disarming police operation on 16 August, and in which 34 people were killed and 78 were wounded.

"In view of your evidence, you didn't know what was happening. Did the brigadier [who was in the helicopter] not tell you what was going on or that people were being killed?" he asked.

Back on ground

Botha said he heard that people had been killed only when he was back on the ground.

"Does that mean you were in the police helicopter when 34 people were killed and people in the helicopter were blissfully unaware of what was going on?" asked Burger.

He said that part of Lonmin's case was to show that the police helicopter failed to perform its function.

Burger said the helicopter had three functions: to record the events of 16 August; to act as an aerial command post; and crowd control.

Botha confirmed that one of the roles was to film the police operation, but he could not say if the other two roles were correct.
"I am not an operations person who can say the helicopter is used for crowd control," Botha told Burger.

He also said he did not know if the brigadier who was in the helicopter with him was giving operational commands.

"I can't remember what anyone said. There was so much talking," said Botha.

Timing

In earlier testimony, the commission, which is chaired by retired judge Ian Farlam, heard that the police operation was meant to start at 15:30.

Botha said he arrived at the helicopter at 15:00, but it was not yet ready to leave.

"There is major operation starting at 15:00... Why doesn't the chopper fly?" asked Burger.

Botha said he could not answer the question.

There were four helicopters in the air at the time of the shooting.

Burger asked if all of them had video equipment on board; Botha said he did not know.

- SAPA

Read more on:    mahikeng  |  marikana inquiry  |  mining unrest  |  police
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