Cops knew Marikana miners took muti

2013-04-23 13:24
Striking Marikana miners. (Picture: AFP)

Striking Marikana miners. (Picture: AFP)

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Rustenburg - Police officers knew a substance thought to be muti was given to striking Marikana mineworkers, the Farlam Commission of Inquiry heard on Tuesday.

Commission chairperson, retired judge Ian Farlam, questioned Major General Charl Annandale on whether they knew protesters believed the muti they had administered would make them invincible and invisible.

'No fear'

"They believed that the bullets would bounce off them. They had no fear and believed that the police's R5s would have no effect on them," Farlam said.

"Did you take that into consideration when you drafted your [dispersal and disarming] plan?" he asked.

Annandale, who headed the police special tactical operations team during the unrest in Marikana, was giving his evidence-in-chief at the commission in Rustenburg.

He said they were aware rituals had been performed on the miners, but did not get information about the supposed effect of the substances.

A white Toyota bakkie laden with buckets had been driven up to the koppie where miners were gathered in the days prior to 16 August, when police fired on the strikers.

A traditional healer was seen sprinkling the substance in the buckets on a group of naked men, said Annandale. Police took pictures of this from a helicopter.

Rubber bullets the last resort

Earlier, Annandale testified that firing rubber bullets was meant to be the last resort to disperse the striking workers under the police plan to deal with labour unrest in Marikana last year.

"The way we intended it to unfold was that after the deployment of the barbed wire, a warning would have been given," Annandale told the commission.

"Time would have been given for the dispersal and choppers would have been airborne."

He said police expected most of the striking miners to disperse.

"Should there be people who failed to disperse, a second warning would have been issued," Annandale testified.

"A line with Nyala vehicles would have been formed. Water cannon would have been placed behind the Nyala."

He said a dispersal plan would then be put into effect against those who still refused to leave the hill.

"We would have started with the deployment of water cannon. Depending on their response, the plan would have advanced."

Annandale said police would not have been able to approach the protesting workers with shields and batons, as these would have offered little protection against sharp traditional weapons.

Stun grenades

The next phase of the plan was to use stun grenades on unco-operative protesters.

"After 1.5 seconds, the stun grenade gives a double bang. Besides the noise, it causes disorientation," said Annandale. This would have been followed by the use of gas.

Annandale said there were two groups on the hill, and police expected resistance only from the smaller group of around 500 people.

He said the people in this group wore similar clothes and their leaders were disciplined.

"They never acted unless they had a command... they would sit together and stand together."

Police had anticipated that, at the third stage, the group would break up into smaller groups, making it easier to handle.

The commission is investigating the deaths of 44 people during the wage-related unrest in Marikana last year. Police shot dead 34 mineworkers on 16 August. Another 10 people were killed in the preceding week.

- SAPA

Read more on:    mahikeng  |  marikana inquiry
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