Marikana: Footage shows miners in state of panic

The Farlam commission heard recordings of instructions given to police officers on the scene at Marikana. (AFP)

The Farlam commission heard recordings of instructions given to police officers on the scene at Marikana. (AFP)

On Wednesday the commission heard radio communication from inside a helicopter believed to be carrying North West deputy police commissioner Major General William Mpembe and another SAPS official identified as Colonel Vermaak.

At regular parts in the 38-minute video, Vermaak is heard giving instructions to the police officers driving nyalas and using water cannons in what appears to be an attempt to corner the miners and arrest them as they fled the shootings on the main koppie.

"No need to shoot while they are running unless they are targeting you," Vermaak can be heard saying, suggesting that police on the ground were probably acting in contravention of standing orders.

Directing the action that was now concentrated at scene two, Vermaak can later be heard saying: "Get out of the nyalas. As a protection measure get out and engage."

Curiously, Vermaak sounds more exasperated about the incompetence of his men only in respect to their poor navigation of the scene, as opposed to the callousness which we now know caused the deaths of at least a dozen lives on scene two.

According to evidence leader Mathew Chaskalson, other available video footage shows that shooting began a mere 30 seconds after the firing of the last tear gas canister and immediately after a water cannon was sprayed, suggesting that miners were shot at while in a state of panic.  

Mathunja on record
Earlier in the session, more detailed footage of Association of Mineworkers and Construction (Amcu) president Joseph Mathunjwa was played from which it can be argued that Mathunjwa was trying to exploit the impasse between the strikers and the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) during the final moments before police opened fire, as his words seemed to be tailored to appeal to their economic plight.

What cannot be denied, however, is that he did give an accurate breakdown of the volatility of the situation and the urgency with which a peaceful solution was being sought.

The footage chillingly reveals just how the temperament of the miners had degenerated - one strike leader is heard saying that the police might not leave the koppie alive if they do not show their peaceful intentions by bringing the employer to the koppie.

The commission continues.

 
Kwanele Sosibo

Kwanele Sosibo

Kwanele Sosibo studied journalism at Durban's ML Sultan Technikon before working at Independent Newspapers from 2000 to 2003. In 2005, he joined the Mail & Guardian's internship programme and later worked as a reporter at the paper between 2006 and 2008, before working as a researcher. He was the inaugural Eugene Saldanha Fellow in 2011. Read more from Kwanele Sosibo

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