Marikana cops in Brits shoot-out

2014-01-19 14:00

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Community says policemen who mowed down mine workers were deployed to halt water protests. 

A few of the policemen who shot and killed striking mine workers at Marikana were part of the core team deployed to Mothutlung, Madibeng, in North West, where three people died, allegedly at the hands of the ­police this week.

Seconds after members of the public order policing unit allegedly opened fire on the protesters with semiautomatic guns, two people were dead.

A third man died the next day.

City Press has learnt that residents have reported one officer?– who is well known in Mothutlung as one of “the Marikana policemen” – to the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid).

Residents claim that the officer, whose name is known to City Press, shot and killed a 62-year-old freelance photographer “in cold blood”.

“He only had a camera,” said community activist Solly Setlale.

“There was no stone in his hand. The only threat he posed was that his camera was recording evidence of what the police were doing.”

The policeman who allegedly took his gun, aimed and shot at Michael “Bra Mike” Tshele is loathed and feared in Mothutlung.

He is known as one of the “Marikana policemen” after residents identified him on television discharging his R4 assault rifle at ­striking mine workers on August 16 2012.

Police sources say he was then a member of the police’s notorious national intervention unit, but has since been transferred to the public order policing unit.

He lives and works in Rustenburg and has family living in Madibeng.

At the officer’s family home yesterday, relatives refused to give his contact details to City Press.

Well-known North West activist and former ANC councillor Alfred Motsi said he again saw the officer –?who he knows well?–?a day after the shootings.

He was accompanying Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa and national commissioner Riah Phiyega as they visited victims’ families.

Residents have identified a second “Marikana policeman” who was also on the scene in Madibeng when police opened fire on the ­protesters.

His name is also known to City Press.

Police sources say several ­members of the Rustenburg public order policing unit, who were in ­Marikana, confronted protesters in Mothutlung on Monday.

Tshele and another protester, Hosia ­Rahube, allegedly died at the hands of this unit.

The sources say a captain was in charge of the unit at Mothutlung.

But after the shooting, Lieutenant Colonel Joseph Merafe arrived to take control of his unit.

Merafe, its deputy commander, was identified at the Farlam commission of inquiry into the Marikana massacre as an “operational commander” on the day 34 mine workers died and more than 70 were injured.

The Rustenburg public order ­police unit was among the units from the police’s tactical response team, the national intervention unit and the task team that shot and killed striking mine workers at ­Marikana.

The commission has heard testimony that police lied to them, withheld information and tampered with evidence.

The national intervention unit is officially supposed to “stabilise tense crime situations in cases where normal policing is not enough”.

It has been fingered at the commission as one of the main culprits in Marikana.

The public order policing units have also been implicated for the Marikana killing.

Mthethwa has ordered Ipid to probe Tshele and Rahube’s deaths.

The watchdog will also investigate the death of protester Lerato Seema.

Police claim he tried to jump from a moving police nyala, but a fellow protester who was in the ­vehicle claims Seema was badly ­assaulted by officers.

Ipid investigators have already questioned witnesses about the deaths.

Witnesses told Ipid that they saw police throwing Seema from the nyala.

Ipid spokesperson Moses Dlamini said the police watchdog was “working hard to expedite the investigations” and asked residents to come forward and help it.

National police spokesperson Solomon Makgale had not responded to City Press by late yesterday despite promising to do so.

The service-delivery protests in Mothutlung started on Sunday.

Residents had been without water for two weeks and the supply had been erratic since October.

Residents claim saboteurs have tampered with the water supply, and accuse them and corrupt councillors of getting kickbacks from water tank owners who were ­awarded contracts to supply affected areas.

The communities of Mothutlung, Damonsville and Lethlabile gathered in a mass protest on Monday morning and intended to march to the Madibeng municipal building.

Police said some roads were barricaded with burning tyres, rocks and branches, and some protesters were throwing stones.

Setlale and Motsi, told City Press that the march was peaceful and that ­policemen from the local Mothutlung station?–?which was ­also without water?–?even joined in.

One of the protesters, Amos Matjila, said public order police waited for the marchers when they left Mothutlung and Damonsville to march on the municipality.

“Police stopped us and without warning, started shooting. People had no weapons. Police were under no threat. There was no need for them to shoot,” he said.

Motsi and Setlale took witnesses to Ipid to testify about seeing the two “Marikana policemen” shooting at the protesters.

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