Marikana: Miners plan to sue police for damages
Lonmin miners are preparing to lodge compensation claims against the police for millions of rands in damages relating to their alleged assault in custody, unlawful arrest and malicious prosecution.
The miners' assault claims were given further credence this week when 10 police officers accused of beating the miners or being present while the assaults were taking place were called by the independent police investigative directorate to an identity parade on Thursday this week.
The miners allege that the beatings took place at a number of North West police stations following their arrest on August 16, the day of the Marikana massacre.
North West police deputy commissioner Lieutenant General William Mpembe is one of the 10 who have been accused of being present when some of the Lonmin miners were assaulted in custody.
Thulani Ngubane, spokesperson for the police in North West, claimed this week that Mpembe had been with President Jacob Zuma in Mahikeng when the assaults allegedly took place.
"These allegations will have to be proved by a court of law and those claiming this will have to show how they can link the deputy commissioner to this situation," he said.
The North West provincial commissioner's office had given its full co-operation to the directorate and anyone asked to attend an identity parade would make themselves available, said Ngubane.
But Ngubane insisted that Mpembe had been nowhere near the scene when the assaults had allegedly taken place.
Mpembe was in charge of the provincial joint operations centre and he confirmed that a team had been dispatched to the police cells to search the miners for cellphones.
"The police were not sent to assault the miners and we are co-operating fully with the investigative directorate," he said. "If called to go, our police officers will attend identity parades. If any of our police officers are found guilty, the law must take its course."
It is now three weeks since many Lonmin miners were allegedly brutally assaulted after being arrested and held in custody at five police stations in and around Marikana.
While detained, the miners were charged with murder, but after a public outcry the charges were withdrawn.
The identity parades were delayed, allegedly, because the police officers and the alleged victims wanted their lawyers present to prevent irregularities and it proved difficult to find a date acceptable to all. Two previous attempts to hold the identity parades did not get off the ground last week.
The directorate's spokesperson, Moses Dlamini, declined to comment. "The investigation is still continuing and any comment could compromise the process," he said.
The miners' legal team, representing as many as 270 miners and led by advocate Dali Mpofu, said that so far 50 detailed statements outlining the alleged assaults by police officers had been taken from their clients and more were expected to follow.
Cases of assault with intent to do grievous bodily harm and attempted murder have been opened against the police officers.
The miners will seek substantial compensation from the police for damages relating to the assaults, unlawful arrest and malicious prosecution. The decision whether to bring the damages claim as a class action would be taken later, the M&G was told.
Some miners were allegedly hospitalised once they were moved to prison, said members of the legal team.
Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa was the first to make public the allegations that police officers had assaulted some of the detainees arrested at Marikana.
In the preliminary report released by the directorate, Mthethwa said that the miners had been assaulted by police officers at Phokeng and Mogwase police stations.
A team from the directorate visited the police stations and obtained 90 statements from the assault victims, he said.
It was later learned that assaults had also taken place at Jericho Police Station and a further 40 statements were obtained from miners. More were taken from Bethanie and Mmakau.
Mthethwa said he had encouraged the directorate to investigate these allegations"without fear or favour".