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Police had 'no real plan' before Marikana massacre

Gabi Falanga

The Farlam commission has heard that the operations in the week leading up to the Marikana massacre were "not a success".

The Farlam commission heard more details of what happened in the week preceding the August 16 massacre. (Madelene Cronje, M&G)

The Farlam commission heard this week that police at Marikana were not properly briefed, that the commander of the operation may have been "too tolerant" and that the operations in the week leading up to the Marikana massacre were "not a success".

More details of what happened in the week preceding the August 16 massacre emerged this week as the cross-examination of Lieutenant Colonel Omphile Merafe continued.

Led by advocate Charles Wesley, Merafe pointed to incidents in the build-up to August 16. "We would be mistaken if we say before the 13th, nothing was happening," Merafe said.

"On 12 August, [two] security officers were killed, their cars were torched and their firearms were taken … On the 11th, there was a shooting which took place at Wonderkop." On August 13, two policemen were hacked to death by mineworkers, and three miners were killed as the two groups clashed.

The commission heard how police members on the Marikana scene were not briefed, because there "wasn't a plan".

"When we got word that there were people marching from Karee mines, we did not have sufficient time to brief the members," Merafe told the commission. "If you don't know what is going to happen, you can't brief people on what is going to happen."

He said that when there is no plan, police know to fall back on a "contingency plan".

"It's a plan that we have ready so that we can tell the police what it is they must do," Merafe said.

He once again indicated how he did not agree with actions taken by Major General William Mpembe on the day. He claims Mpembe was "too tolerant" in his decision to escort the crowd away. Mpembe, who is the provincial deputy police commissioner, was the commander of the Marikana operations.

"I wanted to amicably request the crowd to lay down their arms, if not, I will disperse and disarm them," Merafe said. He added that the operation on August 13 "was not a success" for the police.

Wesley also showed the commission the last crime intelligence report received on August 16, which indicated that the striking crowd was unafraid of confrontation. "Is it fair to say that by definition [the]SAPS would've been angry and intolerant when they intervened?" Wesley asked Merafe.

"I would only say it was not the appropriate time for the police to take action; whether they were angry or what their position was, I will not be able to say," Merafe responded.

Merafe also agreed with head of the commission Judge Ian Farlam's suggestion that it was only after police intervened by uncoiling barbed wire, that "the temperature went up" and that there was violence in the area.

Merafe, who is the North West public order policing commander, was not present at Marikana on August 16, when 34 striking mine workers were killed by police."When we got word that there were people marching from Karee mines, we did not have sufficient time to brief the members"

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