Change of plan for police hours before Marikana massacre

2013-06-21 08:40

The police’s plan changed just hours before they gunned down 34 miners on August 16, the Marikana Commission of Inquiry has heard.

William Mpembe, North West deputy police commissioner, was on the stand again yesterday. He was questioned by Mbuyiseli Madlanga SC on his role in the killings.

The evidence led by Madlanga showed that the police’s plan to remove the miners from the koppie had changed before the incident.

Mpembe said he only noticed the change later in the afternoon.

“I noticed something was different when nyala six was not in the same position as we had planned. I consulted Lieutenant Anderson and he confirmed that the plan had changed,” said Mpembe.

According to Madlanga, the sixth nyala was supposed to have completed a curve shape around the koppie but at about 11am it had veered towards Nkaneng, opening up a space for the miners to run into the settlement.

Mpembe said the initial plan was to use barbed wire to protect the police and the media from the striking miners. The next step would be to ask all groups larger than 10 to disperse into smaller groups, disarm them and then arrest any others.

But the plan didn’t work out.

Madlanga led further evidence on the lack of briefing in the police, based on Mpembe’s statement signed on August 13, documenting how the police had tried to disarm and disperse the miners at the railway tracks on their return from the mine.

Madlanga asked Mpembe many times if the police had been briefed on how to handle the situation with the miners. Mpembe finally said he had briefed his commanders who were supposed to brief officers on the ground but he didn’t have any evidence that this had been done.

“From what I saw I could see that they (officers) had been briefed but I have nothing written,” Mpembe added.

During the proceedings it also emerged that one of the witnesses who had submitted a written statement had been threatened.

“It has come to our attention that one of the witnesses, who has filed a statement, has received anonymous death threats via email and SMS,” said Advocate Vuyani Ngalwana.

Retired judge Ian Farlam said this was very distressing news.

“If whoever is foolish enough to act on these threats, the police will use every resource they have to bring them to book,” he added

The hearings resume today at 9.30am.

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