Communication problems in Marikana

2013-04-25 14:34
(Werner Beukes, Sapa)

(Werner Beukes, Sapa)

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Rustenburg - Police had not anticipated the communication difficulties they faced during the Marikana wage-related unrest, the Farlam Commission of Inquiry heard on Thursday.

SAPS Major General Charl Annandale said radios had malfunctioned and only a single channel was used for communications, resulting in constant radio traffic.

"We didn't foresee that such [a thing] would happen," Annandale said.

He explained that police officers were using two incompatible radio communications systems.

North West police officers were using the analogue radio system, while police from Gauteng, brought in to assist, were using the digital system.

Annandale headed the SAPS special tactical operations team during the unrest at Lonmin's platinum mine in Marikana in August last year, and was giving his evidence-in-chief before the commission in Rustenburg.

He said they tried to ensure there would be constant communication by giving the Gauteng police 83 of the analogue radios.

"Each vehicle had an analogue radio at its disposal," said Annandale.

However, the digital system was the better one.

"If I press the [talk] button [while on the analogue system] only I can talk through the radio and everyone else can just listen," said Annandale.

This meant the overall commander could not issue instructions over the radio if another person was talking on the channel.

The digital system, however, had the option of talking between two people or opening the line and allowing for mass communication, said Annandale.

Addressing the issue

Commission chairperson, retired Judge Ian Farlam, said police should be working on fixing the radio communications problem.

"Don't wait for our report, deal with the problem now," said Farlam.

In response, Annandale said the matter was already being attended to. It would cost each province around R600m to roll out the digital system.

"We are not waiting for the outcome of the commission. We've already identified this as a problem," he said.

The commission is investigating the deaths of 44 people killed during the wage-related unrest in Marikana last year.

Police shot dead 34 striking mineworkers on 16 August. Another 10 people were killed in the preceding week.

Read more on:    lonmin  |  police  |  ian farlam  |  mahikeng  |  marikana inquiry

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