Mpembe: I pleaded with Marikana protesters


Provincial deputy police commissioner William Mpembe pleaded with protesters to lay down their weapons in Marikana, the Farlam commission has heard.

Provincial deputy police commissioner William Mpembe said he believed the protesters would heed his call when he spoke to them directly. (Alet Pretorius)

"I testified that as the overall commander, I took it upon myself to intervene on August 13 and pleaded with the crowds to lay down their weapons," Mpembe testified.

Two police officers were killed during the unrest on August 13.

Commission chairperson retired judge Ian Farlam asked Mpembe: "If you did that, persuading them to do as you say, we would not be here, isn't it?"

Mpembe said he believed the protesters would heed his call when he spoke to them directly.

Lethal force
Vuyani Ngalwana, for the police, asked Mpembe whether he considered using lethal force on the protesters on August 13 to disperse them.

"No, I did not consider that because crowd control does not allow the use of lethal force," Mpembe replied.

He said he held an impromptu meeting with his commanders on the day to see how police could resolve the situation. A psychological debriefing on the state of the police officers' mental fitness to continue working at Marikana was also done then, said Mpembe.

Earlier on Tuesday, a statement by a "Mr Y", who was stabbed several times on his way to work and left for dead, was submitted. He survived the attack and identified two of his attackers.

Another statement, by Mohammed Cassim, a general dealer shop owner, was also submitted.

Cassim said in his statement that there had been a rush on his Marikana store by groups of men to buy pangas, axes, and hatchets, and that he quickly ran out of stock.

The commission, sitting in Centurion, Pretoria, is probing the circumstances surrounding the deaths of 44 people during an unprotected strike at Lonmin's platinum mine in Marikana in August.

Police shot dead 34 striking miners on August 16. Ten people died in the unrest during the preceding week.

The hearing continues.  – Sapa

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