Mthethwa unaware of Marikana weapons

2014-07-14 17:42
Marikana inquiry (Picture: Sapa)

Marikana inquiry (Picture: Sapa)

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Pretoria - Former police minister Nathi Mthethwa on Monday denied having any knowledge that police officers at Marikana were armed with rifles.

"Were you aware that at Marikana, units were deployed, which use R1, R4 and R5 rifles, weapons that have been called by an expert as military issue?" Dumisa Ntsebeza, SC, for the families of the dead Lonmin mineworkers, asked Mthethwa during cross-examination at the Farlam Commission of Inquiry in Pretoria.

Mthethwa is now arts and culture minister. He said he was briefed about the deployment of police officers to Marikana, but did not ask about the particular units.

"I was informed when I inquired about the deployment there, but I did not ask specific questions about which unit is there and which unit was not there," he said.

Ntsebeza said Mthethwa knew beforehand that specialised police units, armed with rifles, would be deployed.

"It must have been reported to you that two police officers had been fatally wounded on the 13th [August 2012]. On the 13th and thereafter, when officers were killed, it became a matter of concern for you," Ntsebeza said.

"Are you saying you did not want to know the details of how this matter was going to be contained, what weapons would be used to contain the situation? Surely you are not suggesting that, are you?"

Mthethwa said whatever the situation, he would not ask about the police weaponry.

"I would rely on the experience of the police in ensuring that there is public order in gatherings as has happened in the past," said Mthethwa.

Ntsebeza insisted Mthethwa should have known the details of the police weapons.

"I put it to you that if you didn't inquire, you were derelicting your duty at seeking to establish what the detail of the deployment was going to be," said Ntsebeza.

Operational matter

Mthethwa said weapons were an operational matter, out of his ambit.

Earlier, Mthethwa said the Marikana shootings and deaths at Marikana were tragic and should not have happened in a democratic South Africa.

"Whatever happened there was not supposed to happen under democracy. Something terribly wrong took place there," he said.

"It was a tragedy visiting our democracy in the country. It was indeed a tragedy."

Mthethwa was police minister when 34 people, mostly striking Lonmin mineworkers, were shot dead in a clash with police in Marikana, near Rustenburg, North West, on 16 August 2012. More than 70 were wounded, and another 250 arrested at the company's platinum mining operations.

In the preceding week, 10 people, including two policemen and two security guards, were killed. The commission is investigating the 44 deaths.

The inquiry continues.

- SAPA
Read more on:    mahikeng  |  pretoria  |  marikana inquiry
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