Police regret Marikana – lawyer

2012-10-22 09:34

The SA Police Service has “deep regrets” about the Marikana mine shootings, a judicial commission has heard.

Advocate Ishmael Semenya, for the police, said today the loss of lives and the injuries were regrettable.

“As we set out to assist this commission with establishing the facts around the Marikana tragedy, we wish to underscore our deep tragedy,” he said.

“Our thoughts are with all families of all sides of that occasion who have lost loved ones. Our best wishes go to those recovering physically and psychologically,” said Semenya.

Thirty-four miners at Lonmin’s platinum mine in Marikana were killed and 78 were wounded when the police opened fire on them while trying to disperse a group of striking workers gathered on a hill in Nkaneng, near the mine, on August 16.

The workers had been carrying knobkerries, pangas, sticks and iron rods.

Workers at the mine went on strike on August 10, demanding a monthly salary of R12 500.

Within four days, 10 people had been killed, two of them policemen and two of them security guards.

The day after the shooting, President Jacob Zuma ordered a commission of inquiry into its cause.

“We have to uncover the truth about what happened here. In this regard I’ve decided to institute a commission of inquiry.

The inquiry will enable us to get to the real cause of the incident,” he said at the time.

Today, national police commissioner General Riah Phiyega joined a group of people at the Rustenburg Civic Centre, where the inquiry, which is chaired by retired judge Ian Farlam, was to resume.

It was postponed on October 3 to give the families of the dead a chance to attend the proceedings.

Phiyega was shown in after 9am and took a seat in the public gallery.

Families of many of the miners shown in to the auditorium took seats in the front rows and were issued with access cards by officials.

Some of the women were in black and blue mourning clothes with blankets draped over their shoulders.

Two of them refused to sit on chairs, but chose to sit on the floor instead, in line with tradition.

Legal teams, the evidence leading team and several lawyers representing different parties, including the families, government departments and human rights bodies sat on opposite sides, facing each other.

Respected human rights lawyer George Bizos (SC) was there with his legal team to represent the Legal Resources Centre and the Bench Marks Foundation.

Blue and orange banners were erected outside the entrance to the civic centre advertising the commission with the tag line “committed to finding the truth in the interest of restoration and justice”.

The evidence leaders were expected to present post mortem reports and other formal evidence, including a ballistics report.

Legal teams would be given a chance to question the evidence, and crime scene experts would also testify.

The commission said that because of the large volume of material involved it was not possible to predict the pace of the proceedings.

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