Strikers shot at cops, inquiry hears

2012-11-09 22:31
Marikana inquiry (Picture: Sapa)

Marikana inquiry (Picture: Sapa)

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Rustenburg - Protesting mineworkers at Lonmin’s platinum operation in Marikana, North West, attacked police officers using firearms and traditional weapons, the Farlam commission heard on Friday.

Narrating events which left 34 striking miners dead, police Lieutenant Colonell Duncan Scott said the protesters made three attempts to breach a line put up by police, marked with barbed wire.

Scott used photographs and video footage to accompany his lengthy presentation.

The three commissioners, led by retired judge Ian Farlam, viewed the photographs and the video clips captured by different news crews on 16 August.

In the footage, thousands of protesters, clutching weapons including pangas, knobkerries and sticks - are seen advancing towards police officers.

In the midst of the crowd, a man is seen firing at officers using a handgun.

Moments later, the infuriated group of protesters is greeted with a volley of bullets as it races towards police officers.

Several protesters plunge to the ground as the shooting officers retreat.

Scott said police officers came under attack on many instances, after that initial shooting which lasted eight seconds.

The protesters headed to two smaller koppies nearby.

"The objective was to pursue the retreating protesters, to disarm, search and arrest the protesters. Some of the protesters [after the initial shooting] were voluntarily walking away but some regrouped at two smaller koppies," said Scott.

During the operation to disarm and arrest the regrouping protesters, Scott outlined eleven events where police shot at the strikers but only after being attacked with guns and traditional weapons.

"A person brandishing a firearm was seen shooting at police members. Fire was returned and after discharging several the attack ceased," said Scott.

He said 259 "attackers" were disarmed and arrested on 16 August. Three firearms were discovered from the group.

Earlier, the commission saw footage of the mineworkers complaining that they were being treated like "rascals" by the mine's management.

The video footage captured by members of the SA Police Service, hours before 34 people were shot, showed protest leaders addressing miners and expressing dissatisfaction with the way in which they were striking.

Scott said the police were on the scene with Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) president Joseph Mathunjwa.

The police wanted Mathunjwa to convince the thousands of protesters to surrender their weapons.

In the footage, most of the protesting workers told Mathunjwa that they would rather die, but would not leave the place they occupied at the koppie.

"Every mineworker is a soldier, prepared to die at any time. They [management] are treating us like rascals, we want them to come and us here," said a protester.

Farlam adjourned the hearings to 14 November when Scott is expected continue his testimony.

- SAPA

Read more on:    lonmin  |  police  |  amcu  |  joseph mathunjwa
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