Lawyer: Police 'deeply regret' Marikana

2012-10-22 12:11
Police on guard just days before 34 striking miners were shot dead at Marikana.(File, Sapa)

Police on guard just days before 34 striking miners were shot dead at Marikana.(File, Sapa)

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Rustenburg - The use of "lethal force" at Marikana was a last resort, the judicial commission of inquiry into the shooting deaths of 34 Lonmin mineworkers heard on Monday.

"This happened despite particular scenario planning by senior generals," said SA Police Service advocate Ishmael Semenya.

"The police remained focused on one key outcome: a peaceful resolution."

Semenya said there had been no murderous intent by the police.

He was reading out his opening statement to the commission, detailing the police's case and evidence that would be presented.

On the day

The police opened fire while trying to disperse a group encamped on a hill in Nkaneng, killing 34 mineworkers and wounding 78 on August 16.

The workers had been carrying knobkerries, pangas, sticks and iron rods.

Workers at the mine went on strike on August 10, demanding a monthly salary of R12 500. Within four days, 10 people had been killed, two of them policemen and two of them security guards.

Semenya said the police's evidence would show that some protesters had wanted a "bloodbath", and that the police had set out to perform to the best of their abilities in a difficult situation.

He said some police officers, who had been affected by the killings of their colleagues during the strike, had been removed from Marikana and placed somewhere else.

Two officers killed

Semenya said the police's evidence would show that before the shooting numerous attempts were made to persuade protesters to disarm themselves.

"They had refused and proceeded to the koppie, killing two police officers and seriously injuring one.

"They also robbed the police officers of two pistols, an R5 rifle, a shotgun, two-way radio and ammunition," Semenya said.

Teargas, stun-grenades and rubber bullets were used to disperse the protesting miners.

"None of these measures had deterred the protesters," he said.

Two days before the shooting police had been in negotiations with the mineworkers, and had asked them to peacefully disarm.

Semenya said that at 13:30 on August 16, police took the decision to disperse and disarm the protesters by 15:30.

They warned the miners not to breach a police barricade of barbed wire, but the miners refused to back down. They tried three times to do so, he said.

Even though teargas, stun-grenades, water cannons and rubber bullets were used, miners protected their bodies by wrapping themselves with extra clothing and blankets, Semenya said.

On their third attempt, the miners got past the police barricade.
- SAPA

Read more on:    lonmin  |  ian farlam  |  george bizos  |  mahikeng  |  mining  |  marikana inquiry  |  mining unrest
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