Inexperienced cops deployed in Marikana – commander

2014-03-26 12:22

Police commanders at the Marikana labour unrest in August 2012 were not experienced in crowd management and unrest scenarios, North West police air wing commander Lieutenant-Colonel Salmon Vermaak has said.

“Of the people that I know, it is [Lieutenant-Colonel Joseph] Merafe ... he was the most experienced person in the public-order policing unit and Brigadier Adriaan Calitz,” Vermaak told the Marikana Commission of Inquiry today in Pretoria.

“Other people from Pretoria who I met, I believe they had never been exposed to the experiences in the mines,” said Vermaak.

He was led in giving evidence at the commission by evidence leader Kameshni Pillay.

Vermaak was asked to explain whether his questioning of the police officers’ experience also extended to North West deputy provincial commissioner William Mpembe, who was overall operational commander during the unrest at Lonmin’s platinum mining operations at Marikana, near Rustenburg, in North West.

He responded: “During my time as commander of the public-order policing unit, he was never involved at any time in any incident where we were dealing with unrest in mines.

“Whether he was involved in mines unrest after I left, I would not be able to respond to that.”

Vermaak said the commanders of the elite tactical response unit deployed at Marikana in the days leading up to the August 16 2012, mass shooting were also inexperienced in public-order policing which specialised in crowd management.

“The commanders are people who have never been involved in such violence,” he said.

Vermaak said it was peculiar that the special task force’s Lieutenant-Colonel Duncan Scott was assigned to draw up the intervention plan which inadvertently resulted in the August 16 shootings.

“It was strange to me that somebody from the task force was brought in to draw a plan for an incident that had public unrest,” he said.

The police strategy implemented before the August 16 shootings was referred to by police as the “Scott plan”.

Vermaak yesterday told the inquiry that the SA Police Service wanted him to take the blame for the deaths of the Marikana miners.

“In a consultation with the police legal team, it was mentioned to me that I am going to carry the responsibility for the people who were killed at koppie three,” he said.

“I realised that I should note everything down in my diary regarding meetings and discussions we were having [regarding the Marikana incidents].”

Vermaak said he made it clear to the police’s legal team, national commissioner Riah Phiyega, and North West commissioner Zukiswa Mbombo that he would stick only to the facts.

On August 16 2012, police shot dead 34, mostly protesting miners, at the mine.

At least 78 miners were also wounded when police fired on a group gathered at a hill near the mine while trying to disarm and disperse them.

In the preceding week, 10 people, including two policemen and two security guards, were killed in the strike-related violence.

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