News24

Lawyer questions use of elite police units

2012-11-19 22:47

Rustenburg - Using a specialised police unit for crowd management during a wage impasse at Lonmin’s platinum operation in Marikana, North West, was questioned at a Farlam Commission hearing on Monday.

This was not the purpose of the national intervention unit (NIU), said Dali Mpofu, acting for more than 300 people arrested and injured after an 16 August 16 shooting.

He told the Farlam Commission there were standing police orders prohibiting the dispatching of the elite unit to crowd management assignments.

The commission is holding public hearings in Rustenburg, North West, as part of its inquiry into the deaths of 34 people when police opened fire on striking miners on 16 August in Marikana.

Another 78 people were wounded in the shooting and scores were arrested afterwards.

Mpofu questioned police training co-ordinator Brigadier Petrus Breytenbach on the rationale behind the deployment of several police units, including the tactical response team (TRT) and the special task force (STF), to quell the protests.

"If the public order policing unit is the section that should be in overall command of the scene, wouldn’t it be fair to then say the TRT had no role to play [at Marikana]? They were not needed?"

In response, Breytenbach said the various police units had overlapping roles during unrest, depending on their deployments.

"I have explained over the overlapping responsibilities of the units. The TRT can assist the POP [public order policing] members or the NIU. If whoever is in control sees it [fit], that’s how it goes," he said.

Instructions

Earlier, Breytenbach told the three-member commission that members of the public order policing unit were the specialised division which was primarily trained to focus on handling crowds.

He said other units, such as the NIU, the STF and the TRT - which were also dispatched to the troubled Marikana region on 16 August - were not specifically trained to handle volatile crowds.

Breytenbach became a police officer in 1985.

Mpofu asked him if he knew about a specialised unit during apartheid, known as the internal stability unit.

After responding positively, Breytenbach was asked to state which police unit played the same role as that of the internal stability unit.

"I don’t think there is a mirror image of that unit in the [current day] SA Police Service. Roles of police have been refined over the years, but I think it may be the TRT, POP and the NIU," said Breytenbach.

Mpofu said there were standing orders indicating that members of a police unit should not act independently, but had to act on instructions given by a commander based at a joint operation centre.

Breytenbach said even though they were members of a unit, police officers could act out of their own will.

Earlier this month, another senior policeman Lieutenant Colonel Duncan Scott outlined to the commission a massive police deployment plan for 16 August.

The plan involved a total of 630 police officers who were deployed to the volatile Marikana region before the shooting of the 34 protesting miners.

The full operational deployments summarised by Scott included the positioning of Nyalas, the placing of barbed wire, and the involvement of the dog unit, mounted unit, and the air wing.

An SA Air Force helicopter was on stand-by in Pretoria. The plan included detectives, medical personnel, a fire engine and ambulances, Scott said.

The inquiry continues.

Comments
  • paul.g.hughes.52 - 2012-11-19 23:49

    Just want to understand something. Police were being killed right ? In any civilised country the Army would have been deployed to deal with the situation. What we have here is the incorrect tool being utilised to deal with an unpredictable crowd as a consequence. I can assure you if the army was there, none of this would have played out.

      johan.wilsnach - 2012-11-20 06:57

      Paul, The commission has R70mil to spend. They have to put up a good show. Yes, there is no law and order here. The police did nothing wrong at any time. They should have shot more to instill law and order

      glen.e.huysamer - 2012-11-20 08:27

      No what we actually have here is business men and connected politicians with vested interest in keeping the status quo, abusing their power to manipulate the command structures of the police to deploy police into a confrontation that was not necessary from start to finnish. Besides the corrupt business connections between mine bosses and shareholders and political partners in the private workings of mining (questionable from start to finnish and something that should be outlawed) we also see the face of that all to common little evil called ego. Added to that a police force seen to be corrupt, incapable and untrained, this we can definitely say as they were useless in combating Xenophobic attacks, useless in service delivery protests where they also killed a person in cold blood on camera, their manners are atrocious and many are out of control, watch on U-Tube how many have been caught on camera acting like thugs, they are useless in Kayalitsha where the residents want to oust them all together besides all this when a Premier of a province asked the President for massive intervention in the drug wars in the Cape she was snubbed by the ANC controlled police command? However a private company was able to receive an entire brigade of 'specialist' police to squash a labour dispute, and only after these police were being deployed did all these killings begin. Law and Order? Suppression of the poor by the ANC-rich. Encouraging this behavior will turn SA into a police state

  • Gar - 2012-11-20 02:52

    The miners are the guilty party. I am still waiting for them to be charged with murder. They started the violence.

      macco.freddy - 2012-11-27 17:15

      gar surely u r nt working in a mining industry caus if u dd u wouldnt coment in dt maner

  • theo.ferreira.58 - 2012-11-20 05:13

    The real victims here are the families left behind. The perpetrators however were not the people who pulled the trigger, it was their loved ones, who thought picking up a panga and staying illegally on private ground and not listening to orders to remove themselves and then charging at police with spears in the air into an armed wall of police will have any other result than being shot. Summary: unfortunately these guys were getting a raw deal from the mines. Instead of asking the question "why are the union leaders showing up in suits and Mercs, and why am I paying them my union dues, when I see NO improvement?", they instead want to take the fight to the police and make the "system" the target?? Please..... The policemen made less per month than the raise they were fighting for... And they have to put up with defending their own lives against idiots with pangas and magic rabbits.

      johan.wilsnach - 2012-11-20 07:02

      Where in the world have you seen trade unions as a government partner?????? That is the mess!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • mart.botha - 2012-11-20 05:35

    'A wage impasse ???'. Where did this lawyer buy his degree...at the 'Pick n Pay University ?' Illegal strike, illegal protest action, illegal threats, illegal weapons....the list is endless. Calling in a battalion from the SANDF would have been justified because the potential threat to the lives of other miners, civilians, the SAPS and mine security as well as property, far exceeding the 34 death toll was imminent.

      johan.wilsnach - 2012-11-20 06:59

      Must be one of your brothers you are talking about!!!!

  • Tello Moleko - 2012-11-20 06:48

    this still prove that even if u can be ADV,u can still be stupid,it is proven by Zille when appointing Mpufu that he is anti-police,everyone can see what would have happened if such units not there

  • deenmohammad.khan.75 - 2012-11-20 08:17

    Thi best

  • glen.e.huysamer - 2012-11-20 08:26

    No what we actually have here is business men and connected politicians with vested interest in keeping the status quo, abusing their power to manipulate the command structures of the police to deploy police into a confrontation that was not necessary from start to finnish. Besides the corrupt business connections between mine bosses and shareholders and political partners in the private workings of mining (questionable from start to finnish and something that should be outlawed) we also see the face of that all to common little evil called ego. Added to that a police force seen to be corrupt, incapable and untrained, this we can definitely say as they were useless in combating Xenophobic attacks, useless in service delivery protests where they also killed a person in cold blood on camera, their manners are atrocious and many are out of control, watch on U-Tube how many have been caught on camera acting like thugs, they are useless in Kayalitsha where the residents want to oust them all together besides all this when a Premier of a province asked the President for massive intervention in the drug wars in the Cape she was snubbed by the ANC controlled police command? However a private company was able to receive an entire brigade of 'specialist' police to squash a labour dispute, and only after these police were being deployed did all these killings begin. Law and Order? Suppression of the poor by the ANC-rich. Encouraging this behavior will turn SA into a police state

  • buff0k - 2012-11-29 12:21

    The biggest concern that should have been reflected out of the Marikana tragedy is not the focus on the alleged misconduct of the police, or the ineffective legislative measures contained within the LRA, but rather the fact that the SAPS need a specialized unit for labour matters. As a labour practitioner I have often seen the manner in which SAPS members seek to address matters through the application of criminal law, while employees are offered protections under labour law. A specialised SAPS unit needs to be formed with training in Labour Law as well as negotiation skills. This is the only way to ensure that such a tragedy is not repeated.

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