Bizos grills senior cop over Marikana

The constitutional mandate of police officers was to preserve the lives of citizens not to kill them, Bizos said at the Farlam commission in Rustenburg on Monday.

"What is your opinion on the dispatching of officers trained in counter-terrorism, dealing with armed robbers to that area?" asked Bizos.

"I cannot comment on the particular decisions made [on August 16] on the ground to deploy the officers. If anyone asked me to deploy the tactical response team, national intervention unit and special task force, I would ask why? It had to be a violent crime situation," responded Breytenbach.

Bizos told Breytenbach that the people involved in the protest were seeking a better life, though some were wielding dangerous weapons.

Bizos wanted Breytenbach to explain what would have been the foreseen outcome of deploying officers "trained to kill" to an already volatile situation.


"Was an unarmed person protesting for a better wage a criminal?" asked Bizos.

"If it were up to me, I would bring the specialised units. These are people who have also undergone basic police training. These units have a wide range of skills. It is better to come prepared for any eventuality," said Breytenbach.

No comment on August 16
"An unarmed person is not necessarily not a dangerous person. I do not want to comment on the incidents [of August 16]," he said.

Bizos said Breytenbach's attitude resembled that of Pontius Pilate. At that stage, chairman of the three member commission, retired judge Ian Farlam intervened and urged Bizos to move forward with his cross examination.

Bizos read statements made by sacked police commissioner, General Bheki Cele, urging officers to take a tougher stance when dealing with criminals.

"I did not take his statements to mean 'shoot first and ask questions later'. He was encouraging the defence of police officers. He was saying 'do not be part of the statistics [of slain police officers],'" said Breytenbach.

On Monday morning, Breytenbach told the commission that members of the public order policing unit always carried lethal side weapons during crowd control operations to protect themselves.

First option is non-lethal force
He said the first option for officers dispatched for crowd control purposes was to use "non-lethal force", such as rubber bullets and water cannons.

Members of the unit were a specialised division which was specifically trained to focus on handling crowds.

Other units, such as the national intervention unit, special task force and the tactical response team – which were also dispatched to the troubled Marikana region on August 16 – were not specifically trained in handling volatile crowds.

Breytenbach was testifying in public hearings held by the commission in Rustenburg as part of its inquiry into a shooting that left 34 striking miners dead when police tried to disperse them in Marikana, North West, on August 16.

Karel Tip, for the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), sought answers from Breytenbach on the police curriculum relating to weapons used to deal with protesters.

Breytenbach said the use of "sharp end" (lethal) weapons was a last resort for police officers in a bid to save their own lives.

He has told the commission that he was not part of the police operations from August 9 to August 16, which culminated in the deaths of 34 striking miners. – Sapa

Subscribe to the M&G

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

Related stories

Marikana murder trial resumes

The eight-year battle for justice played out its next round in the Mahikeng high court this week

We must continue George Bizos’s quest for justice

COMMENT: To achieve a fair society, acting in the spirit of the late George Bizos is crucial, not just within the formal legal system, but within every individual

Reflections on George Bizos, on whose shoulders we stand

The conviction of young activists is going to play a huge role in sustaining and improving on the legacy of our struggle heroes

George’s holiday in Greece with Madiba

In his book 65 Years of Friendship: A memoir of my friendship with Nelson Mandela, George Bizos tells of their only holiday together

An ethical barometer: Advocate George Bizos

‘It is a powerful thing to be able to reason and weigh up competing interests in a critical way, one that must not be taken lightly’

George Bizos dies at 92

Renowned human rights lawyer George Bizos, who defended Nelson Mandela and other struggle icons during the treason trial and Rivonia trial, represented families at the TRC, and later represented Marikana miners’ families, has died
Advertising

Subscribers only

SAA bailout raises more questions

As the government continues to grapple with the troubles facing the airline, it would do well to keep on eye on the impending Denel implosion

ANC’s rogue deployees revealed

Despite 6 300 ANC cadres working in government, the party’s integrity committee has done little to deal with its accused members

More top stories

Finance probe into the Ingonyama Trust Board goes ahead

The threat of legal action from ITB chairperson Jerome Ngwenya fails to halt forensic audit ordered by the land reform minister

Ailing Far East Rand hospital purchases ‘vanity’ furniture

Dr Zacharia Mathaba, who purchased the furniture, is a suspected overtime fraudster and was appointed as Gauteng hospital chief executive despite facing serious disciplinary charges

Eusebius McKaiser: Reject the dichotomy of political horrors

Senekal shows us that we must make a stand against the loud voice of the populist EFF and racist rightwingers

Seals abort pups in mass die-off

There are a number of factors — a pollutant, virus or bacteria or malnutrition — may have caused the 12 000 deaths on Namibia’s coast
Advertising

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…

The best local and international journalism

handpicked and in your inbox every weekday