New evidence Marikana ‘plan’ was a rush job

2013-09-29 14:00

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The police plan that resulted in the deaths of 34 miners was only discussed in detail a few hours before the tragic shooting on August 16.

This stands in opposition to the version SA Police Service (SAPS) witnesses have tried to present to the Marikana Commission of Inquiry since its inception.

It has also emerged that members of the police’s public order unit – its first line of defence and attack – were not present when police were briefed on a plan that should have ended the standoff with striking Marikana miners safely.

Evidence leader Advocate Matthew Chaskalson said that at least four different versions of what happened in the days leading up to the shooting – from the police’s own officers – had been presented to the commission.

Previously, officers have testified that they spent several days before August 16 meticulously planning how they would disarm and disperse striking miners.

But for the first time this week, cracks in the police’s planning were revealed on the stand at the commission – and Lieutenant Colonel Duncan Scott, one of the police’s own, was doing the damage.

Chaskalson commended Scott for being the first police witness to play open cards with the commission.

“You, of all the people in the SAPS, have given us access to contemporaneous documents that we hadn’t received through the official SAPS channels,” said Chaskalson.

These revelations came after Scott handed over three hard drives that contained previously unseen documentation and video footage.

After evidence leaders sorted through this new evidence, it emerged that the police only finalised their plan on the afternoon of August 16, the day of the shooting, at a 1.30pm meeting.

This plan was informally discussed by Scott and Major General Charl Annandale on August 15, but no details were finalised.

Later, Scott testified, he realised their initial plan to encircle the miners on the koppie with barbed wire would not work.

“I also recall from an early report that the strikers were sitting more spread out?...?in sporadic groups. This information started a discussion on whether there was a leak of information to the strikers on the strategy to encircle them as a tactical option,” he testified.

At a joint operations committee meeting on the morning of August 16, no details of how to disperse the miners were discussed.

But later that day, there were reports that the strikers were becoming hostile and the 1.30pm emergency joint operations meeting was then called at which, Scott testified, “no current serving public order policing (POP) members were present”.

He added that he suggested a course of action that was accepted by all units.

This plan was to use the POP members as the police’s first line of defence in dispersing the strikers.

Questioned by Judge Ian Farlam as to why no POP members were present if their role was being discussed, Scott said there was a former POP member at the meeting who could have objected to or altered the plan.

This meeting lasted about one hour, from 1.30pm to 2.30pm, Scott testified.

After this, he was tasked with briefing commanders on the ground about the plan – the first detailed briefing the POP’s commanders had received.

The briefing, he testified, was conducted in a Mercedes-Benz Vito van using a laptop to show people their deployment positions.

Then the commanders had just 30 minutes to brief their teams: The plan was supposed to kick into action at 3.30pm.

At about 4pm, the shooting started. Within minutes, 34 miners were dead.

The commission has been postponed until October 14. Scott is set to continue his testimony.

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