Miners changed attitude towards police

2013-04-30 21:39
(Picture: Sapa)

(Picture: Sapa)

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Rustenburg - The attitude of Marikana miners towards the police changed drastically ahead of the shooting on 16 August, the Farlam Commission of Inquiry heard on Tuesday.

Major General Charl Annandale, who led the police special tactical operations team at Marikana, said the striking miners appeared to view the police presence positively on 14 and 15 August.

"Police made a proper plan and this group started seeing police as the new mediators to help them achieve their purpose of obtaining higher wages."

This had largely to do with the police's efforts to get union leaders to speak to the protesting miners.

"However, everything changed on the sixteenth," said Annandale.

"There was no more negotiation with police, police were seen as an entity which is now standing in their way."

This contributed to different risks that became apparent on the day.

The commission is holding public hearings at the Rustenburg civic centre into the events at Marikana on 16 August.

On that day, 34 striking miners were shot dead and 78 were wounded when the police opened fire on them while trying to disperse a group which had gathered on a hill near the mine.

In the preceding week, 10 people, including two police officers and two security guards, were killed in strike-related violence near the mine.

Evidence leader Geoff Budlender questioned the police's apparent assumption that miners gathered at a koppie near the Lonmin mine, some of whom were armed with dangerous weapons, might attack residential areas if they left the area with their weapons.

He said most of the protesters left the koppie after dark in any event, and could have used these opportunities to attack had this been their intention.

Annandale dismissed this suggestion, saying these were "totally different circumstances".

Budlender asked him if there had been any events reported, in the days leading up to 16 August, which suggested there was a likelihood of an attack on neighbouring settlements.

Annandale said the violence reported, although not in residential areas, did indicate some risk.

He referred to the killing of two security guards the week before, as well as intimidation of workers, assaults and damage to cars reported in police occurrence books.

Earlier, the commission heard how police suffered a communications delay on 16 August.

Commanders of the Joint Operations Centre (JOC) at Marikana did not immediately know that shooting had broken out at the first scene, Annandale testified.

He said there was a delay between the first shooting and the JOC getting this information.

"The JOC would not know at all times what is happening on the ground."

There were officers commanding the operation at the scene.

"An operation of this nature [is] left to the people commanding on the ground," he said.

On Tuesday, he said that ideally, after receiving a report such as that of the shooting, commanders would reassess and regroup before deciding on the next step.

He emphasised this depended on the particular circumstances of a particular operation.

George Bizos, SC for the Legal Resource Centre and the Bench Marks Foundation, will continue with Annandale's cross-examination when the commission resumes on Thursday.

Read more on:    police  |  mahikeng  |  marikana inquiry  |  mining unrest

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