Top cop ‘in bathroom or outside’ while miners were killed at Marikana

2014-02-06 17:14

When miners were being shot by police on August 16 2012 in Marikana, North West Police Commissioner Zukiswa Mbombo was either in the bathroom or outside the SAPS meeting place, the Marikana commission of inquiry has heard.

She does not remember being told about reports that the miners had attacked Tactical Response Team (TRT) members or that 18 miners were down.

“At that 15.55pm when the reports came in, I could have still been in the ladies’ room or still sitting outside. But I’m not sure what time I returned inside the JOC (Joint Operations Centre),” she said.

She testified that she was only made aware that miners were wounded or had died at 16.17pm when one of her commanders approached and informed her while she was sitting outside.

“Inside was busy, listening to the radio and people walking up and down. I had people inside whom I knew would tell me if anything important happened,” she said.”

But seemingly no one had told her until close to 30 minutes after the incident had happened.

Evidence leader Advocate Geoff Budlender responded: “I don’t mean to be rude, commissioner, but I did say earlier that you were there (at the SAPS base in Marikana) to pay attention and take responsibility of the operation. You were not there for a picnic. But it seems to me that you were there for some kind of jol ...”

Budlender revealed that the commissioner had sent a message to National Police Commissioner Riah Phiyega, at 4.02pm, just after miners had been shot dead. Mbombo says she doesn’t remember what the message was about, but it definitely was not to inform Phiyega that the miners had been shot.

“One possibility is that there was a concerted effort to keep the information away from you or that you aren’t telling the truth about when you were informed that the miners were shot and others were injured. Your testimony strains one’s belief. I find that impossible to believe. How can they not tell you what was going on, on the ground ... while you were sitting outside ... were you hiding?” Budlender said.

Mbombo was also asked to respond to a report, compiled by Crime Intelligence, which stated that the miners could retaliate and blood could be shed if the SAPS went ahead with its phase three plan of disarming, disseminating and arresting them.

It was argued that before she had given her instruction for this plan to be implemented, she had known that one of the risks was that the miners could be wounded and killed by the tactical response team.

“It was reckless to implement the ... plan because it was inevitable that the miners would retaliate and it would lead to injury or killing. You knew that one of the risks was that POP (Public Order Policing) members would have difficulty and TRT members would be called using sharp weapons resulting in deaths and injuries,” said Budlender.

Mbombo replied that she had been assured by her commanders that very little or no blood would be spilt and that’s why she still gave her instruction for the SAPS to execute this plan.

The Marikana commission will resume on Monday when Advocate George Bizos is expected to cross-examine the witness.

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