Marikana: Lawyer blasts use of R-5 rifles on miners

2012-11-26 13:32

Advocate Dumisani Ntsebeza has argued before the Marikana Commission of Inquiry that the use of R-5 rifles by police in breaking up the protest of mineworkers at Marikana on August 16 was improper.

Ntsebeza, who represents 21 families of the 34 who were killed when police opened fire with R-5, R-4, R-1 pistols, shotguns and rubber bullets to break up a protest of about 3 000 Lonmin mineworkers, said the R-5 calibre weapons were military weapons which were used in a war situation.

This was during the cross examination of police ballistic expert Warrant Officer Albert Wessels, who led evidence on the impact, range and effect the different weapons had when used on humans.

Wessels said the R-5 could discharge between 600 and 700 rounds of ammunition a minute if the trigger was held down.

He said the lethal range of an R-5 was around 2km and that of a 9mm pistol could be 1.2km.

In re-examining Wessels, SA Police Services lawyer Ishmael Semenya SC asked if the blankets worn by the miners around their bodies would have reduced the effects of a rubber bullet.

Wessels, who earlier said the rubber rounds could cause severe pain, testified that these blankets could limit the impact of the rubber bullets.

Semenya asked Wessels which police units and what kind of ammunition would be appropriate to carry if they had intelligence or evidence that the protesters had with them a police-issued R-5 rifle, which was stolen from one of two policemen killed, allegedly by some of the protesters on August 13.

Wessels said the Special Task Force and National Intervention Units would be appropriate, and if they were not available, the Tactial Reaction Team.

He said these would be armed with R-5 rifles to “put them on an equal footing” with the threat they faced.

The commission was also shown a photograph of the post mortem of Warrant Officer Monene, who was shot and hacked during a confrontation between police and the striking miners on August 13.

Wessels said the appearance of a greyish black colour around a bullet wound on Monene’s chest indicated the breaking of the tissue around the skin on entry of the bullet.

He said the wound indicated that “the barrel of the firearm was just about touching the skin”.

Wessels said it was difficult to determine which calibre of firearm was used in the shooting, but said it could well be a handgun.

The inquiry continues.

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