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Bizos questions cop about being 'willfully blind' at Marikana

Sapa

George Bizos has accused the the police's operational commander at the Marikana intervention of being "willfully blind" when protesters were shot.

The Farlam commission is probing the deaths of 44 people during labour-related unrest at Lonmin's Marikana mine. (Madelene Cronje, M&G)

The police's operational commander during the intervention at Marikana was quizzed at the Farlam commission of inquiry on Monday about his absence from the scene where 34 mineworkers were shot dead.

George Bizos SC for the Legal Resources Centre, cited incidents during apartheid where police officers shot protesters and the most senior officers commonly professed ignorance at inquests.

"You [Brigadier Adriaan Calitz] as the senior officer were not there when the people were killed at [Marikana] scene one. You were also not there when people were killed at scene two. You saw nothing, you heard nothing," said Bizos.

"What do you say as we intend submitting that you were willfully blind, and also willfully deaf? Was it just a matter of coincidence that you absent yourself from both of the vital moments of the events that this commission has been called to make a decision?"

Calitz said there was no way he could have predicted the shootings. "I could not know that in five seconds this was going to happen. It [the shooting] was not done deliberately. I took control of a very traumatic incident that day, to keep the members together and to co-ordinate," he said. "I am not a commander who was not involved. I was not willfully blind, I saw what happened. Totally, I was not wilfully blind or wilfully deaf. Adrenaline was high, I was involved in the incident and I had people arrested."

Not willful
Calitz said in analysis that people who knew him personally would know that he was not a character who would order a senseless killing of protesters. "In hindsight people say why did you not do this and that. If you talk to the members, you will hear what they think about me as a commander," he said. 

Bizos pressed on, asking Calitz to explain why he decided to "remove" himself from the scene, just before the shooting. "How many minutes before the shooting did you decide to leave? Almost as the shoot to kill started, you removed yourself from the scene," Bizos said.

Calitz said he did not willfully choose to be absent.

He has previously testified that he did not hear the volley of police bullets which hit the mineworkers because the nyala he was in was noisy.

Bizos then asked: "When you left scene one, was it clear to you that trouble was coming? Was it imminent that there would be an attempted attack [on officers] or some of your police officers ... ?"

Calitz insisted he knew the mineworkers had attacked the police officers.

The three-member commission of inquiry, chaired by retired judge Ian Farlam, is probing the deaths of 44 people during labour-related unrest at Lonmin's platinum mining operations at Marikana, near Rustenburg, in North West.

On August 16 2012, 34 people, mostly striking miners, were shot dead and 78 people were wounded when the police fired on a group gathered at a hill near the mine while attempting to disperse and disarm them. In the preceding week, 10 people, including two policemen and two security guards, were killed. – Sapa

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