/ 14 November 2012

Farlam commission: Police tied hands of Marikana wounded

The Farlam commission continues in Rustenburg.
The Farlam commission continues in Rustenburg.

Lieutenant-Colonel Duncan Scott told the Farlam commission of inquiry on Wednesday that this was done to secure one of the crime scenes.

Police either handcuffed or cable-tied the hands of the wounded who were lying near dangerous weapons, in order to make the scene safe for medical personnel, he said.

Scott was narrating a police presentation of events in the commission's public hearings in Rustenburg, North West. He showed photographs of an apparently unconscious miner lying with his hands behind his back, with a firearm, panga and a large knife in close proximity.

Scott showed three video clips depicting what he described as "perceived rituals" conducted two days before the shooting.

A leader, wearing a green blanket around his shoulders, appeared to be sprinkling something on the rows of seated protesters while another man performed a dance.

Thousands of protesters were visible, sitting in a tight formation on the koppie.

"The inyanga [traditional herbalist] seems to have some kind of contraption tied to his right arm," Scott said.

Commission chairperson, retired judge Ian Farlam, asked whether the inyanga had been identified. Scott said he was not at liberty to discuss this, except to confirm that an investigation had been launched. In one of the video clips, the man in the green blanket shouts through a loudhailer, while another protester is seen urinating towards the police.

Weeks of police testimony and presentations have so far seemed to conceal more than they revealed.

The police's first major witness Lieutenant-Colonel Cornelius Johannes Botha set the tone of the police's strategy of revealing as little as possible quite definitively. In retrospect, his testimony can now be regarded as one long, unflinching amnesia attack. Subsequently, parts of his testimony, especially with regards to his knowledge of the mandate of the police helicopters, would be discredited some by his colleagues.

One of the most severe blows to the police's credibility so far has been the contradictory sets of photographs, apparently supplied to the commission inadvertently, depicting the alleged planting of traditional weapons next to the miners lifeless, bullet-ridden bodies.

Perpetuating the notion of aggressive miners armed to the teeth is pivotal to the police's justification of the rampant slaughter that transpired away from the media's prying eyes in the smaller koppies (referred to as scene two). These lie west of the main area where the miners had been gathering in the days leading up to the August 16 massascre.

It was revealed during the opening statements that police would argue that they acted in self-defence against armed and charging miners who had hidden themselves in rock formations as police apparently swooped to arrest them.

Exactly when the miners will take the stand is not immediately clear, even though police have wrapped up a lengthy multimedia presentation, which, in essence, was a cold retelling of hardly disputable facts. If nothing else, the presentation reveals police to be tireless, although clearly misplaced and unwelcome negotiators at first, who became increasingly hellbent on an aggressive disarmament solution following the events of August 13, which led to the deaths of several protesters and two policemen.

As part of the police's presentation, the commission was shown footage of several negotiation attempts centred on disarmament. On one, filmed minutes before a skirmish broke out between miners and police, a miner can be heard telling Major General William Mpembe that the police should accompany the miners so they can see that their arms are not for aggression but for protection.

It was following this murder of the police that deployment of forces was stepped up by several notches.

The Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union's president, Joseph Mathunjwa's request for journalists to leave the main koppie on the afternoon of August 16 after failing to convince the workers to voluntarily disarm, and North West police commissioner Zukiswa Mbombo's declaration of a "D-day" remains a clear indication that a violent solution had already been decreed.

As one advocate anonymously put it, police were open to taking a few lives on that Thursday, but something got out of hand.

Interestingly, the police's presentation accounts for only 30 deaths on August 16

Indications are that the next witness will be Anglican bishop Jo Seoka, who, while his beleaguered organisation was bleeding staff and a revolt was taking place in the Pretoria diocese, played a pivotal role in the subsequent negotiations that led to a landmark 22% wage hike. His testimony should prove insightful and damning to Lonmin, who have been portrayed as digging in their heels, having initially called the striking miners "faceless".

The commission is expected to sit until Friday this week, before an announcement is made on the following week's schedule.