Cops had to act on Marikana, inquiry hears

2013-10-24 16:08
(Picture: AFP)

(Picture: AFP)

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Pretoria - The state had an obligation to subdue the Lonmin mineworkers' strike in Marikana, the Farlam Commission of Inquiry heard on Thursday.

It had created an exceptional situation and the police had to intervene, police Lieutenant Colonel Duncan Scott told the commission's public hearings in Pretoria.

"I think we can agree that Marikana was an exceptional situation, looking at the preceding days' history. The SA Police Service [SAPS], as the authority of the state had to act," said Scott.

"This [strike] was not something that was simply going to die down. At some stage the police needed to act in order to restore law and order to the area."

Scott was being cross-examined by George Bizos, for the Legal Resources Centre and the Bench Marks Foundation. The inquiry is chaired by retired Judge Ian Farlam.

Bizos asked: "You say in your statement it was a matter of concern that you believed that compliance with the law must be enforced [at Marikana]. What law did you have in mind?"

"[The] gathering was illegal because it was represented by armed strikers, which is in contravention with what the Constitution says about their right to protests and picket."

Bizos asked again: "What law did they contravene?"

Numerous laws contravened

Scott said numerous laws had been contravened in the days before 16 August, with the murders of security guards and police officers, and with the protesters carrying dangerous weapons.

Bizos asked if the police intervened on 16 August to punish the mineworkers, who gathered at the koppie because of what they had done previously.

Scott rejected this suggestion.

"That is not within the jurisdiction of the police to act in that way," he said.

Bizos asked whether the police had the right to kill the 34 mineworkers because they were armed with traditional weapons. Scott said the police's plan did not include killing anyone.

"The planned action was simply to disperse, which starts with a verbal warning. There is no punishment in that aspect," said Scott.

He drafted the plan which was to be used to disperse and disarm the striking mineworkers. It was referred to as the "Scott plan".

Scott said the shooting of 34 miners was not due to the plan, but came down to the actions of individual police officers.

"Was it borne in mind that [the plan] led to the result which left 34 dead and over 80 seriously wounded?" Bizos asked.

Scott replied: "It is not necessarily the result of the plan that I put forward. It is individual actions that it takes to pull a trigger. That is the question that needs to be put to each individual that pulled the trigger, whether they acted in self defence as had been briefed to them."

‘Officers should testify’

Scott said the officers who shot the protesters should testify about the circumstances they faced at the Marikana koppie.

He could not testify on their behalf.

"Where is the proportionality when there was not a single policeman with a scratch as against the 34 deaths and approximately 80 seriously wounded [miners]. Where is that proportionality, colonel? Bizos asked.

Ishmael Semenya, for the police, objected and said Scott had repeatedly stated that this could best be answered by each officer individually.

Bizos responded: "My learned colleague [Semenya] is wrong, with great respect. I submit that those who planned, those who adopted the plan, those who purported to execute it, are all responsible."

The commission is investigating the deaths of 44 people during strike-related unrest at Lonmin platinum's operations at Marikana, near Rustenburg, last year.

The police shot dead 34 people, mostly striking mineworkers and arrested 250 on 16 August 2012.

In the preceding week, 10 people, including two policemen and two security guards, were killed.

The public hearings will resume on Monday.

Read more on:    lonmin  |  police  |  ian farlam  |  george bizos  |  ishmael semenya  |  marikana inquiry

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