Lawyer won't retract Marikana evidence statement

An advocate representing over 20 families of the deceased at the Farlam commission of inquiry would not retract his statement that police may have destroyed video evidence.(AFP)

An advocate representing over 20 families of the deceased at the Farlam commission of inquiry would not retract his statement that police may have destroyed video evidence.(AFP)

At the Farlam commission of inquiry, Advocate Dumisa Ntsebeza would not retract his statement that police had possibly destroyed video evidence of the shootings that took place at the koppie on August 16.

Ntsebeza made this statement during cross-examination of a public order policing (POP) skills development facilitator, Brigadier Zephaniah Mkhwanazi, and was asked to retract it by a concerned Ishmael Semenya, who represents the South African Police Service (SAPS). Mkhwanazi could not satisfactorily answer Ntsebeza’s questions on why he did not specifically request to view Marikana footage taken by the SAPS when they met at the bosberaad in Potchefstroom, as it would have been relevant to his unit.

Mkhwanazi said he was of the belief that whatever footage the SAPS had, would be viewed in conjunction with footage collected from the media, so he did not bother pressing the video operator further. Mkhwanazi said he did not recall the name of the video operator who mentioned the presence of the video footage to him. He also said that he did not keep a diary of events that transpired after August 16.

The police met for over a week in September in Potchefstroom, with one of the objectives being to prepare for the commission.

Ntsebeza put it to Mkhwanazi that the situation at Marikana could have been better contained had it been handled exclusively as a POP operation, as a POP-trained negotiator would have realised that the Lonmin strike was one where people merely wanted to protest and would have negotiated for the facilitation of a peaceful protest.

Service delivery protests
Ntsebeza said that as he saw it, the plan as executed by the police on August 16, was based on laying down an ultimatum and executing the consequences of non-adherence to the ultimatum.

Mkhwanazi said nationally, there were between 4 000 to 8 000 POP members and not all of them were deployed to Marikana as they had to keep abreast of service delivery protests.

Ntsebeza argued that the use of water canons, tear gas and stun grenades – non lethal equipment used by the public order police – could have led to a non-violent dissolution of the protest, as opposed to the use of barbed wire (which he argued led to a stampede) and assault rifles.

Lieutenant Colonel Stephen James McIntosh, one of the chief negotiators during the days leading up to the massacre, was from the hostage unit, which Ntsebeza argued was inappropriate for the occasion.

During his cross examination Ntsebeza asked carefully phrased leading questions, often requiring no more than a simple “yes" or “no”. At some point, a cornered Mkhwanazi tired of this routine, resorting to elaborate, anticipatory answers, a routine that drew reprimanding from the commissioner Ian Farlam, who heads the inquiry. 

Mkhwanazi continues to be cross-examined by the South African Human Rights Commission’s Nokukhanya Jele 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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