Some Marikana victims shot by miners, inquiry told

2013-11-26 22:38
(Picture: Sapa)

(Picture: Sapa)

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Pretoria - Protesting miners at Marikana shot some of their colleagues in a clash with police in August last year, a senior police officer said on Tuesday.

Wounds suffered by some of the dead mineworkers come from firearms seized by the protesters from Lonmin mine security guards, Brigadier Adriaan Calitz said in Centurion.

He was testifying before the Farlam Commission of Inquiry into the deaths of 44 people during strike-related unrest at Lonmin's platinum mining operations at Marikana, near Rustenburg in North West.

Thirty-four people, mostly striking miners, were shot dead on 16 August 2012, and 78 were wounded when police fired on them while trying to disperse and disarm a group which had gathered on a hill near Lonmin's mining operations.

In the preceding week, 10 people, including two policeman and two security guards, were killed near the mine.

President Jacob Zuma appointed the commission in August last year.

On Tuesday, the commission's head of evidence leaders Advocate Geoff Budlender, questioned Calitz on the use of firearms and ammunition by the police officers and the protesters.

"How did it happen that some of the strikers were shot with shotgun pellets on 16 August. Is it possible that some police service members had shotgun pellets, which they brought to Marikana?" Budlender asked.

He said there was a standing police order prohibiting the use of pellets in their shotguns in crowd management interventions, to avoid serious injury.

Calitz said the individuals who killed and stole firearms from Lonmin security personnel on 12 August, fired shots and killed some of the mineworkers during the clash on 16 August.

"If I could give my opinion, the security personnel had their arms and ammunition [pellets] taken away. The impression we have is that the group that took those weapons [later] used them on 16 August," he said.

Budlender asked: "You say that the strikers who were shot and killed with shotgun pellets on the 16th, were killed by their own people?"

Calitz responded: "Correct."

Usage of pellets

The senior policeman said he did not have evidence to support his hypothesis. However, he said he knew that Lonmin security, including those killed on 12 August, used pellets in their firearms.

Budlender said the issue of the ammunition fired at the wounded and dead protesters was a mystery.

Post-mortem results indicated six of the mineworkers sustained injuries from shotgun pellets. Two of them died.

Calitz was one of the police commanders assigned to the operation during the labour unrest at Marikana last year.

He said the police had been threatened and told to leave the Marikana koppie, where the strikers had gathered, six times in the hours before the shooting.

Earlier, Ishmael Semenya, for the police, asked Calitz to explain whether police were sure that methods like verbal orders, use of stun grenades, water cannon, rubber bullets, and the display of force would not have caused the protesters to disperse from the koppie.

Calitz said: "From my own experience based on around 20 years in charge of the POP [public order policing], it is not the first time I was giving instructions for dispersal. These methods [the water cannon, stun grenades, and verbal orders] always work correctly.

"People [protesters] take the easiest way out to avoid being shot or being arrested."

He rubbished claims that the mineworkers "misunderstood" the purpose of barbed wired, which led to the chaotic confrontation.

"It [the rolling out of barbed wire] was not misunderstood. The purpose of the barbed wire had been explained to them. It [the confrontation] was a deliberate action by protesters," said Calitz.

The three-member commission led by retired Judge Ian Farlam is holding public hearings. The other commissioners are senior advocates Bantubonke Tokota and Pingla Hemraj.

Read more on:    lonmin  |  police  |  ian farlam  |  ishmael semenya  |  marikana inquiry

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