Warrant Officer Thibelo Thamaye was put in a tight corner by none other than Farlam commission of inquiry chairperson Ian Farlam on Thursday when he failed to convince the judge that he could not hear any shooting at scene two while he and his colleagues were attending to scene one, surrounding the main koppie.
Thamaye, a forensic expert who pointed out the concentration of cartridge cases in and around the two crime scenes during the commission’s site visits was fulfilling a similar role today, as he was being led and cross-examined on formal police evidence.
Thamaye said he counted the distance between the cartridges found in relation to one body, that of Mgcineni Noki, often pictured in a green blanket because was closest to the line of fire, a line that he failed to clearly define under cross examination.
The police's declaration that a large concentration of cartridge cases were found around the body of Noki's body seems to advance their theory that Noki was aggressive and was the leader of the section of miners who had undergone rituals intended to strengthen them in a physical confrontation with police.
In one of the videos played in Thursday's session, Noki's body is shown but the head is not visible, as if it had been dismembered. Several other miners are shown with gaping holes in their heads and others with shattered skulls, displaying the severity of the gun shower unleashed on them.
Thamaye said he was handed two pistols allegedly recovered from the miners by a colleague soon after his arrival on scene one, a move seen to back up claims that miners fired at the police. He also rearranged weapons already piled up in a heap into rows as he wanted to check them for blood.
Thamaye was questioned by Legal Resources Centre advocate George Bizos as to whether the removal of weapons from the scene so soon after a crime was committed was normal procedure, to which he responded that it was done only under "exceptional circumstances", depending on the members' reasons. Thamaye said the two pistols were handed to him because his colleagues feared they would be removed from the scene and the evidence lost. He also revealed that bodies had also been shifted by the time he arrived on the scene.
Like his predecessors, Thamaye would not reveal the details of the briefing at the joint operations centre on the morning of the 16th, except to say he was under the impression that the miners would surrender peacefully, and police conversation was therefore small talk unrelated to the day's events.
Police will be led through more formal evidence on Friday before the commission adjourns until next week Wednesday.