A senior police officer has fielded questions about the communication difficulties during the intervention to end the Marikana protest last year.
A senior police officer was questioned on Wednesday about the South African Police Service's communication difficulties during the intervention to end the violent Marikana protest in Rustenburg last year.
Evidence leader Matthew Chaskalson SC was cross-examining Lieutenant Colonel Duncan Scott at the Marikana commission's public hearings in Pretoria. Chaskalson sought answers on the communication difficulties between senior officers at the security joint operations committee (JOC) and officers deployed on the ground.
"We know from the video evidence that the first deaths [of mineworkers] at scene two happened 10 minutes into the video. We can work out that between the report of 'bodies down' and the first death at scene two, there would have to be 14 minutes," said Chaskalson.
"At the very least, between that [bodies down] communication and the first deaths there are quite possibly more than 14 minutes. Is that sufficient time for control to have been exercised from the JOC, to take stock and pause the operation?"
Scott said police procedure dictated that in such a scenario, confirmation would need to be sought first, regarding the information on the dead bodies.
"You still need to consult with your commanders on the ground because to simply tell them to stop, pause where they were would be naïve of the JOC."
Stolen police handset
"Police lives and other lives would be in danger," he said. "That time period would be sufficient [for the consultations]."
The commission also heard on Wednesday that a civilian was communicating on a stolen police handset radio. Chaskalson asked Scott why officers did not change to another channel, different from the protester.
"From the 14th [of August] the SAPS was aware that a radio had been stolen. Once a radio has been stolen, there is a risk of interference or interception with communication which is foreseeable.
"Was anything done to set up a protocol for shifting to a back-up channel if there was interference [from the stolen radio]?"
Scott said there was a back-up channel "which was supposed to be utilised if one channel went down".
Chaskalson then asked why officers did not shift to that back-up channel when their communication went down for some minutes during the operation.
"It wasn't briefed [to officers] that we were expecting an interception of that kind. I can't recall it being pertinently briefed, I don't think we expected them [protesters] to use the police radio to jam the frequency," said Scott.
The senior policeman faced several questions on why the officers did not migrate to a back-up channel, when their communication by police radios failed on August 16.
The inquiry, chaired by retired judge Ian Farlam, is investigating the deaths of 44 people during strike-related unrest at Lonmin platinum's operations at Marikana, near Rustenburg, last year.
The police shot dead 34 people, mostly striking mineworkers, wounded 70, and arrested 250 on August 16, 2012. In the preceding week, 10 people including two policemen and two security guards, were killed.
The hacked police officers were stripped of their handguns and radios.
Scott helped draft the police plan which was to be used to try and disperse and disarm the striking mineworkers. The plan was referred to as the "Scott plan". – Sapa