Police shot Marikana miners unprovoked, video shows

Cellphone footage captured by police shows the officers were not acting in self-defence. (AP)

Cellphone footage captured by police shows the officers were not acting in self-defence. (AP)

The footage from the small koppie, already seen before the Marikana commission of inquiry and broadcast by UK-based Channel 4 news on Monday, shows police officers escorting miners as they crawl through the bushy grass surrounding the koppie with their guns fixed on them. An officer shouts: "He's running. Wait, don't shoot him. Don't shoot him."

After some shots are heard, we see the body of a man lying prostate on the ground, his torso riddled with bullets. An officer boasts of having "shot the motherfucker at least 10 times, and he was still coming, coming". The narrator identifies the man who sustained 12 gunshot wounds as Thobile Mpumza.

Later on, as the footage wavers among the cluster of rocks, police officers are heard appearing to recount the episodes of the murders. One mimics the sound of a gun: "ka ka ka ka", and says, in Afrikaans: "He had a smaller gun."

The video then shows scenes of dead and prostate miners being worked on by paramedics and groups of police officers standing on the rock formations of the koppie.

James Nichol, a British lawyer who has joined the Seri-SA team representing the families of the deceased miners for the duration of the commission, explains that some cartridges were found "higher up", indicating that police were standing on rocks shooting into the gully where men were standing defenceless.

The footage itself confirms what we already know about the happenings on the small koppie, and has, in fact, appeared before the Marikana commission.

Commenting on the video, police expert Johan Burger said: "The police's legal team did refer to the footage because they believe that it supports the police's position that there wasn't the mass killing that they are being accused of carrying out. The commission has to sift through all the evidence and they'll have to judge. The police, on their side, will obviously present their information in the best possible way. It goes some way in explaining the police's position but the police would have to explain each and everyone of those killings. I doubt it will assist in that regard."

Independent investigator David Bruce, differs, somewhat. "Around September last year, I wrote a piece where I called what happened a 'forward panic'. Since then I've been beginning to doubt that theory. I'm beginning to think that there is more of a possibility that this was a deliberate operation, rather than something carried out in the heat of the moment. The footage suggests that there were officers who were dismayed by what their colleagues were doing. If everyone was on a killing mission more people would have died."

"Riah Phiyega, in a ceremony for the task force, commended the police's work. There is a tendency to encourage this behaviour. You could find that potentially, there are police officers who were traumatised by what they saw, but because of an expectation to protect their colleagues, they are not free to talk about [it]. That in itself is a tragedy," he said.

So far, there have been no indications that the Independent Police Investigative Directorate will yield anything independently of the commission. The announcement of officer Francois Beukman's resignation last year on August 16, the day of the Marikana massacre, is an eerie indication of that. Beukman, who was understood to have favoured independence, apparently differed with his superiors in the handling of police investigations.

 
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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