How can police claim they were acting in self-defence when many of the strikers killed in Marikana were shot in the back of the head?
This was Advocate Dumisa Ntsebeza’s line of argument as he delivered his final statements before the Marikana Commission in Centurion today.
He said the South African Police Service’s (SAPS) version of self-defence and private defence “was entirely at odds with the post-mortem reports for the families’ loved ones, which showed that many had been shot in the head, their upper bodies, or from behind”.
Ntsebeza argued that the killings on August 13 2012 when the police met with the strikers near the railway station were caused by the cops.
“We will submit further that there is clear evidence that the three strikers who were killed; Mr Mati, Mr Sokanyile and Mr Jokanisi were killed unlawfully by the SAPS.”
He said it was “the SAPS’ discharge of tear gas and stun grenades that caused the confrontation between the strikers and the police and the deaths that ensued”.
According to his argument, one of the strikers, Phumzile Sokanyile, was clearly trying to flee but was killed with a R5 bullet to the back of the head – execution style.
Ntsebeza then showed six slides of highly graphic images taken on 16 August where each striker was shot in the head and neck. The pictures showed gaping holes in the face, the back of the head and the neck.
Murmurs could be heard through the auditorium as these slides were shown.
“The police’s duty even in the face of danger is to make sure that what they do in defence can never be so disproportionate as to defeat any understanding as to why it could have been done. Because they are law enforcement agencies, it was not a warfare between gangsters,” said Ntsebeza.
He went further to explain that the weapons carried by the officers were only meant to kill. Warrant-Officer Albert Wessels agreed during his testimony that R5 rifles were killing machines.
“The weapons they (police) carried on the day would, with one single shot, kill a person 250 metres away. To state the obvious we all rely on the police service for security. But if their response to a perceived threat is to blow half the face of the perceived threat off ... how can that be justified on any basis in a democratic space?” he said.
Earlier in the day Amcu’s lawyers argued that Lonmin and the police worked together and should be charged together for the death of the strikers.
Advocate Heidi Barnes said the police knew that there was a possibility of bloodshed and this was communicated to Lonmin; yet the plan went ahead.
According to Barnes, both Lonmin and SAPS knew that going ahead with the plan would mean death and bloodshed.