Top cop admits grenades, tear gas provoked Marikana miners

2013-11-12 16:58

General William Mpembe, the deputy police commissioner in North West, was again cornered today into agreeing that stun grenades and tear gas had provoked the miners on August 13 when the police confronted them at a railway line.

Advocate Dali Mpofu argued at the Marikana Commission of Inquiry hearings that Mpembe’s decision to intercept the miners had led to the brutal death of two police officers and miners.

Striking miners that day led a delegation to the Karee mine to speak to working miners and convince them to stop working. The miners were first stopped and turned back by the Lonmin security officers.

Mpofu showed a video, which was taken from a Lonmin hard drive on August 13.

The video shows the miners crouching, then turning around near the railway line where they had just been told by Lonmin security officers that they should go back to where no miners were working and that management would not come out to talk to them.

The miners are seen clicking their weapons together and singing as they turn to walk back to the koppie.

Then the police arrived and Mpembe asked the miners to leave their dangerous weapons but the miners refused, saying that all they wanted was to go back to the koppie.

Mpembe testified today that though the miners said they meant no harm, they were “disrespectful and were intimidatory” by choosing to sing the song “qinisa amasende [tighten your testicles]” and then clicking their weapons when he walked up to them to request disarmament.

According to testimony a short while later, police fired tear gas and the stun grenades.

“The miners could have thought that the sound of the stun grenades was actually the police shooting at them,” said Judge Ian Farlam.

Mpofu added that had the tear gas not been fired, “had that incorrect action not been done the police officers would not have died”.

Mpofu also argued that until the incident, during which the police officers were killed, the police viewed the situation in Marikana as ordinary crowd management.

Mpembe’s statement said the attack on the police informed his view that the situation was no longer a normal crowd management situation.

But today he tried to change this statement, saying that he already had the view before the police officers had been killed. After an hour, he finally admitted that he regarded “the situation as more serious after the police were killed”.

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