Three miners have backed up claims that police shot them while they were surrendering, including one who says he was fired at from around five metres.
Three Lonmin mineworkers reportedly shot by police while surrendering have compiled affidavits to attest to this, the Farlam Commission of Inquiry heard on Monday.
Dali Mpofu, appearing for the miners arrested and injured during clashes between police and striking mineworkers on August 16 2012, said the statements would corroborate the evidence of Shadrack Zandisile Mtshamba.
The witness had previously testified that police shot some miners who had been hiding and were trying to give themselves up.
“There was sound of gunfire from all sides. Some bullets sounded as if they are so near us. One man said we should surrender. He raised his arms,” Mtshamba told the commission earlier this month.
“He was shot in the right arm and he bent down. He raised his hands and said we should surrender. He was shot again in the stomach. The third bullet shot his leg and he fell down.”
‘Contradictory’ evidence called into question
Ishmael Semenya for the police on Monday disputed the affidavits.
He argued whether the three miners could be called to testify against the police at the commission, contradicting Mpofu who said the witnesses could be interviewed by evidence leaders and their injuries examined.
Semenya argued that one witness’s affidavit contradicted Mtshamba’s evidence. Mtshamba had testified that one of those shot in his presence was hit in the left arm. However, according to the man’s affidavit, he was shot in the right arm.
Mpofu argued the affidavits were relevant and admissible.
The commission’s chairman, retired judge Ian Farlam, said the question was whether police intentionally shot at the miners.
“Could they see them? Did they know they were firing at people who were surrendering?” he asked, adding that some of the police were shooting from a distance.
“The statements would not prove that the people were intentionally shot at,” said Farlam. Mpofu disagreed.
“There is a statement from one witness who says shots were fired at him from around five metres,” said Mpofu. “He suggests that this was done deliberately.”
Farlam ruled the evidence leader should interview the three miners prior to their statements being entered as evidence.
The commission, sitting in Centurion, Pretoria, is investigating the deaths of 44 people during the strike-related unrest at Lonmin’s platinum mine in Marikana, near Rustenburg.
Thirty-four people, mostly striking mineworkers, were shot dead in a clash with police. More than 70 were wounded and more than 200 were arrested on August 16 2012. Police were apparently trying to disperse them.
In the preceding week, 10 people, including two policemen and two Lonmin security guards, were killed. The commission has called another witness, Lonmin miner Xolani Nzuza, to testify. – Sapa