Doubts raised over police footage of Marikana shooting

The validity of video footage taken by police of the Marikana shooting is being questioned as the criminology expert's evidence lacks detail. (AFP)

The validity of video footage taken by police of the Marikana shooting is being questioned as the criminology expert's evidence lacks detail. (AFP)


Further doubts are being cast around the evidence of the police, following another dismal turn at the witness stand by criminology expert Lieutenant Colonel Johan Botha.

Advocates Dali Mpofu and Dumisani Ntsebeza, who represent the arrested miners and some families of the deceased respectively, took turns punching holes in Botha's testimony on Wednesday, with Ntsebeza seeming to corner him on several details surrounding the events between the August 13 and 16.

Following the flighting of two aerial videos at the Farlam commission of inquiry, the first of which was a 40-minute video apparently captured by Botha and the second, a five-minute clip apparently shot from a second helicopter, Botha was cross-examined about the details of the scene he shot and the plans leading up to it.

He reverted to remembering as few details as possible, explaining the extended sequences of unpopulated terrain and wide shots of residential areas were as a result of capturing people who by then were scattered all over the Wonderkop area. He also claimed that his camera would shake and distort when he zoomed too close to the ground. As a result, Botha's video captured precious little of the miners being shot and accosted by police.

Both advocates questioned whether Botha was, in fact, in the chopper he claimed he was in, with Mpofu suggesting that perhaps he had been in the second helicopter as that featured more distinct snatches of what seemed like communication with with police officers stationed on the ground , in what was ostensibly a coordinated operation. Botha could not sufficiently account for the general absence of voices in the video he was recording, except to state that there were instances in which voices could be heard.

Four helicopters
Botha also denied knowledge of the presence of a Lonmin helicopter, which was counted among the four helicopters hovering above the scene. Two of these belonged to the South African Police Service, one to the air force and another to Lonmin.

Referring to evidence of the code names ascribed to police choppers on the day, Ntsebeza revealed that it was, in fact, "chopper 1" that was dispensing instructions to police officers stationed on the ground on August 16, suggesting that Botha may have falsified the footage he claimed to have shot or may have tampered with it to distort the instructions.     

Tensions were still high among the lawyers representing the various parties, with the commission adjourning for around three hours as parties deliberated on various issues including the arrests of potential witnesses; the disrupted presence of the deceased miners' families; and legal aid for the lawyers not being funded by the state. Mpofu and Ntsebeza had earlier vocalised the financial difficulties they were operating under, with Ntsebeza calling for an equality of alms among the legal parties being subsidised.

Addressing the situation earlier on, Mpofu, representing the arrested and injured miners said the arrests were meant to thwart the participation of his clients. He added that the presence of the SAPS officials filming the proceedings reduced the commission to a "virtual identity parade".

Evidence leader Mbuyiseli Madlanga told the commission that the department of justice and constitutional development said it was looking at making statutory amendments which would allow them to be able to fund the accommodation and transport for the families of the deceased. Ntsebeza had advocated the adjournment of the commission until such an amendment was promulgated.

The commission resumes on Tuesday.

Kwanele Sosibo

Kwanele Sosibo

Kwanele Sosibo studied journalism at Durban's ML Sultan Technikon before working at Independent Newspapers from 2000 to 2003. In 2005, he joined the Mail & Guardian's internship programme and later worked as a reporter at the paper between 2006 and 2008, before working as a researcher. He was the inaugural Eugene Saldanha Fellow in 2011. Read more from Kwanele Sosibo

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