I didn't know miners were dead - Marikana cop

2013-11-25 16:02
(Picture: AFP)

(Picture: AFP)

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Pretoria - A senior policeman was unaware that mineworkers "lying around" after a clash with police at Marikana last year were dead, the Farlam Commission heard on Monday.

In a statement submitted to the commission, Brigadier Adriaan Calitz testified that due to the noise around the koppie, he had not heard the police tactical response team (TRT) firing live ammunition at the strikers.

"I contacted Lieutenant Colonel [Solomon] Vermaak on radio and inquired from him why the TRT was not following our dispersal action. He said he would go and check and later reported that the TRT were at the kraal and there were bodies lying around.

"I thought, given my experience and the absence of such a report to me, that the bodies referred to people who were injured by the dispersion action or lying down to be arrested," Calitz said in his statement.

He detailed how he instructed officers to pursue protesters who were escaping in the northern and western directions. He urged the officers to arrest the fleeing protesters.

"I gave clear instructions over the radio to the dispersion group [police officers] ‘do not shoot unless the target engages you’. I repeated the instruction to ensure that members understood me clearly," said Calitz.

"The shooting I was referring to [meant the use of] rubber rounds and not sharp ammunition. They were to use rubber only as a last resort if the armed strikers approached them with dangerous weapons."

Calitz, one of the police commanders assigned to the operation during the labour unrest at Lonmin's platinum mining operations at Marikana, near Rustenburg in the North West, was testifying in the commission's public hearings in Centurion.

Naked miners

Last week, he testified that a large group of naked miners performed rituals behind a koppie the day before the shooting.

Calitz said a white Toyota bakkie off-loaded buckets at the koppie, near the Nkaneng informal settlement in Marikana on 15 August last year.

"A group of strikers went to the bakkie and surrounded it. I reported to the JOC [joint operations committee] that it was suggested to us by some members that the buckets contained muti," he said.

After 16:00, a police helicopter patrolling the scene reported that about 800 naked strikers were behind the koppie "and a traditional healer was busy with them".

The following day, 34 people, mostly striking miners, were shot dead in a clash with police who were trying to disperse and disarm them. Seventy eight were wounded.

Inquiry

The Farlam Commission of Inquiry was appointed later that month to investigate the circumstances around the shooting, as well as the deaths of 10 other people, including two policemen and two security guards, during the preceding week.

He said the white Toyota bakkie was seen bringing substances in buckets.

"The chopper reported that the 800 or so naked strikers were performing rituals."

In March, the commission heard that the sangoma believed to have performed rituals on the protesting mineworkers had been shot dead.

Advocate Ishmael Semenya, for the police, announced the sangoma's death at the public hearings.

At the time, he said police had been trying to bring the 69-year-old sangoma Alton "Ndzabe" Zikhuthele Joja to testify as a witness before the commission.

Joja was to have testified before the commission about his role, and that of his sons, in rituals performed on striking miners.

The rituals were apparently supposed to make the miners believe they were invisible in the face of gunfire.

Read more on:    lonmin  |  police  |  marikana inquiry

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