What Zuma said and what the Marikana Commission wrote
Jacob Zuma released the report into the 2012 Marikana massacre. Africa Check compares his claims and what the Commission’s report actually said.
Nearly three years after 34 miners were shot and killed by police at Marikana, in South Africa’s platinum mining belt, the country’s president, Jacob Zuma, on Thursday released a report on the massacre’s causes.
Zuma told South Africa the report exonerated ministers in his cabinet while announcing an investigation into national police commissioner Riah Phiyega’s “fitness to hold office”.
So how far does his speech reflect what the report actually said? We list key parts of Zuma’s speech and the related text.
- Zuma: “The Commission has found that it would have been impossible to disarm and disperse the strikers without significant bloodshed, on the afternoon of the 16th of August.”
What the report said:
[North West deputy police commissioner] Major-General Mpembe clearly foresaw bloodshed if the police went in to disarm and disperse the strikers and he was realistic in that regard. Despite this foresight SAPS moved to the tactical phase without putting in place any substantive measures to mitigate against bloodshed and the loss of life. The SAPS leadership appeared to have reconciled itself to the notion that bloodshed was a real possibility, if not an inevitability.
[North West police commissioner] Lieutenant General Mbombo foresaw there was a high risk of bloodshed if her decision were implemented during the course of 16 August 2012 and it was clear, at some time after 9am, that the voluntary disarmament [AMCU president] Mr Mathunjwa had overconfidently predicted was not going to happen.
Sight must not be lost of the fact that [the provincial commissioner’s] main desire was not for there to be a massacre or tragedy and for the strikers to be killed but for the weapons to be laid down and for the strikers to leave the koppie. This clearly appears from the evidence of Mr Mathunjwa that she berated him for not going to the koppie and persuading the strikers to do what he had confidently predicted the previous evening they would do.
Even before it was drafted Major Generals Mpembe and Annandale warned the Provincial Commissioner that proceeding to the tactical option [on 16 August 2012] would involve bloodshed. She reconciled herself to the fact that this was so, merely asking for an assurance that it would be kept to the minimum. In the Commission’s view this was not good enough.
- Zuma: “The Commission has found that it cannot be said [by the Counsel for Injured and Arrested Persons] that Mr [Cyril] Ramaphosa [the current deputy president and then non-executive director of Lonmin] was the cause of the massacre, and the accusations against him are groundless.”
What the report said:
However, we submit that it cannot be fairly suggested that [Ramaphosa’s] call for “concomitant action” to be taken in respect of murders and violence, involves the exercise of inappropriate political influence, or an attempt to have the police brought in to break the strike. In Mr Ramaphosa’s capacity as a director of Lonmin, he may well have had a legal obligation to take what steps he could to prevent the killing or injuring of Lonmin’s employees, the damaging of its property, and the damaging of its business.
In this instance, Mr Ramaphosa wore the “hats” of non-executive director of Lonmin, a significant shareholder in Lonmin (through its shareholding structures), and a senior member of the ANC, the governing party. He also had personal connections with some of those involved in government. If what Mr Ramaphosa did was attempt to persuade the Minister to ensure that there should be greater police presence on the ground so as to prevent further loss of life, there was no incompatibility in the interests which he had in the matter. The interests of Lonmin, the African National Congress, and the interests of those with whom he had personal relationships, were not incompatible: they all had an interest in putting an end to the killings which had taken place. The only people who had an interest in a continuation of the killings were those who were carrying them out.
The evidence leaders point out that the objective evidence shows that Mr Ramaphosa was not aware of the decision made [at an extraordinary session of the SAPS National Management Forum] on Wednesday 15 August to move to the tactical option if the strikers did not lay down their weapons and leave the koppie.
The Commission agrees with the submissions by Mr Ramaphosa’s counsel that the accusations made against him by counsel for the Injured and Arrested persons are groundless.
- Zuma: “The Commission found that the Executive played no role in the decision of the police to implement the tactical option on 16 August 2012, if the strikers did not lay down their arms, which led to the deaths of the 34 persons.”
What the report said:
[Then Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa] repeatedly insisted that at no stage did he place any pressure on either Lieutenant General Mbombo or the National Commissioner to take any form of action. As regards his conversations on August 12 with Mr Ramaphosa he said that he did not regard him as having endeavoured to put pressure on him.
The National Commissioner [Rhia Phiyega], as the evidence leaders put it, threw no light on what role, if any, the Minister played in relation to the events of August 16. Repeated attempts to get her to say what the Minister did before the events of August 16 produced no satisfactory answer. Among other things she said of the Minister, “he’s a political leader. He gives us leadership in that space and support”.
If guidance of the executive played a role, then it is probable that such guidance was conveyed to the [SAPS National Management Forum] by Minister Mthethwa.
The Commission wishes to emphasise that it is not finding that such “guidance” was given. It is, however, unable in the light of what has been said above to find positively in Minister Mthethwa’s favour on the point.
- Zuma: “In respect of the tragic incident of 16 August 2012, the Commission found that the police operation should not have taken place on 16 August because of the defects in the plan.”
What the report said:
This [original] plan was relatively risk free: it had been designed by Colonel Scott with the assistance of Colonel Merafe and other [public order policing] officers and accepted by the [joint operational co-ordinating committee] at a meeting attended by several [public order policing] officers. Attempts were made by SAPS to indicate that it was abandoned before 16 August 2012 and replaced by a new plan, to disperse the strikers from the koppie and to disarm and arrest the more militant ones (what was referred to in the evidence as the “[Disperse-Disarm-Arrest] plan”]).
Unlike the earlier plan, which was relatively risk free, the new plan, which had to be prepared in haste, did not benefit from inputs from experienced [public order policing] commanders and contained serious defects. It had moreover to deal with a very different situation from the one for which the earlier plan had devised and there was a distinct risk of significant bloodshed, which was in fact foreseen by some of the senior SAPS commanders.
At 13h30, when there was no sign of the strikers being willing to lay down their arms and disperse, the Provincial Commissioner ordered Major General Annandale to implement the “tactical option”. At that stage the new plan had not been discussed by the [joint operational co-ordinating committee]. The planner, Lieutenant Colonel Scott, put the details before the [joint operational co-ordinating committee], from which its [public order policing] members were absent. There was no challenge process and Lieutenant Colonel Scott and Brigadier Pretorius went to [Forward Holding Area] 1 to brief the commanders. There was no time to prepare the hard copies for the commanders and they were shown an image based on the earlier plan on Lieutenant Scott’s laptop computer and orally given the details of the plan. The implementation of the plan had catastrophic consequences which resounded all over the world.
Zuma: “Police leadership did not inform the Commission that the decision to go ahead with the tactical option, if the strikers did not voluntarily lay down their arms and disperse, was taken at the National Management Forum meeting on 15 August. Instead, they informed the Commission that this decision was taken on the 16th of August, and only after the situation had escalated.”
What the report said:
A very serious aspect of this matter is that it appears that SAPS deliberately attempted to withhold from the Commission information about this meeting and concealed the fact, the very important fact, that the decision to go over to the so-called “tactical option? was made not in the middle of the day on 16 August 2012 after the situation had “escalated? to such an extent that the tactical option was the only appropriate way forward, but the day (or evening) before when it was not known what the situation on the ground would be when the “tactical? operation commenced.
Zuma:“The Police leadership did not initially disclose to the Commission, the fact that the original plan was not capable of being implemented on the first date and that it had been abandoned.”
What the report said:
Attempts were made by SAPS to indicate that [the original plan] was abandoned before 16 August 2012 and replaced by a new plan, to disperse the strikers from the koppie and to disarm and arrest the more militant ones (what was referred to in the evidence as the “Disperse-Disarm-Arrest plan?). It was suggested, for example, that it could not be implemented because there was not enough barbed wire but the evidence indicated that the SAPS ordered more wire from Lonmin and that Lonmin had enough wire available to deliver to the SAPS as and when it was needed.
The leadership of the police, on the highest level, appears to have taken the decision not to give the true version of how it came about that the “tactical option” was implemented on the afternoon of 16 August 2012 and to conceal the fact that the plan to be implemented was hastily put together without [public order policing] inputs or evaluation. In order to give effect to this, the decision at the [National Management Forum] was not disclosed to the Commission. An inaccurate set of minutes for the 06h30 meeting [on 16 August] was prepared and a number of SAPS witnesses testified before the Commission in support of the incorrect version. There is at least a prima facie case that the National Commissioner [Riah Phiyega] and the Provincial Commissioner for the North West Province, who knew the true facts, approved Exhibit L (the SAPS presentation), which contained the incorrect facts.
Africa Check is a non-partisan organisation, which promotes accuracy in public debate and the media.