Ntsebeza: Mineworkers did not attack police

2013-12-04 19:26
(Picture: AFP)

(Picture: AFP)

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Pretoria - Striking Marikana mineworkers did not attack the police before the shootings on 16 August last year, the Farlam Commission of Inquiry heard on Wednesday.

"We want to dispute all that evidence that has been put before this commission by police to suggest that they acted in self-defence. They [police officers] were not under attack," Dumisa Ntsebeza SC, told the commission. He is appearing for the families of the deceased mineworkers.

Ntsebeza argued that because Brigadier Adriaan Calitz had previously testified that he did not see the shootings at the Marikana hill near Lonmin's platinum operations in North West, he could not say with certainty whether his charges had acted in self-defence.

"I would like to be satisfied that your two weeks of being on the [witness] stand has not been in support of a case that the police acted in self-defence, because you were not there," said Ntsebeza.

"For all the time you have been on the stand, you are not alleging that the police acted in self-defence? Whatever you have been saying does not support the theory that the police were justified in shooting my clients."

Calitz said he was not certain what prompted the police to shoot.

"I can only say I cannot be certain of what happened because I was not there. As far as the TRT [tactical response team] shooting is concerned, I cannot help," he said.

Ntsebeza said it was important for the commission to differentiate which of Calitz’s testimony was based on facts and which was based on circumstantial evidence.

"I am careful to put to you something which you can help us with. You are not able, on the basis of your presence as the operational commander on 16 August, [to say] whether the police were being attacked.

"You don’t know that they were being attacked so you can’t say they acted in self defence," said Ntsebeza.

Communication gap

Previously, Calitz testified that he was unaware that the mineworkers "lying around" after the clash with police were dead.

In a statement submitted to the commission, Calitz testified that, because of the noise around the hill, he had not heard the police tactical response team 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.

On 16 August 2012, 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.

The Farlam Commission of Inquiry was appointed later that month to investigate the circumstances surrounding these deaths and those of 10 people, including two policemen and two security guards, during the preceding week.

Read more on:    marikana inquiry

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