Major General Charl Annandale, who headed the police's tactical response team during the unrest, was testifying about the events at Marikana on Wednesday when he made his apology to the relatives of the miners who were killed during the Marikana massacre.
Speaking about the role of the police in the violent unrest, he asked if he could address the relatives of the deceased. Annandale told the commission he was not sure if he would ever get a chance to address them again.
"My heart goes out to each and every family of anyone who lost their lives … I'm aware of the gap that this leaves in everyday lives," he said.
Some of the family members broke down while Annandale was speaking. Almost all of them left the auditorium. Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) members also got up and left the proceedings.
"My wife always refers to this as a ripple effect … I know that this is so much broader than a lover missing a loved one," Annandale said.
"I know there were breadwinners, fathers, sons, brothers and also husbands." He told the commission the lives of police officials were also deeply affected by the incident.
Dali Mpofu, for the injured and arrested miners, and Dumisa Ntsebeza, for the families of the deceased, noted the families' grief.
They agreed that the commission was not the appropriate platform for Annandale to have delivered his condolences, and suggested that this should have happened in a private meeting.
They said the commission saw a similar reaction when national police commissioner Riah Phiyega delivered her condolences to the families.
Later on, Ntsebeza said the special task force, the national intervention unit and tactical response team were armed with live ammunition only when they embarked on the operation to disperse Lonmin platinum workers.
Ntsebeza said it would be submitted that the police knew the specialised units would use the live ammunition, as they had been trained to do so. He said the families of the victims would not accept that the killings were unplanned.
"The families of the deceased mineworkers are not in a position to accept that the deaths… [were] something unexpected," he said.
Annandale denied that the use of live ammunition was part of the police's plan. Ntsebeza concluded his cross-examination
The commission, chaired by retired judge Ian Farlam, is investigating the circumstances surrounding the deaths of 44 people during the wage-related unrest in Marikana last year.
Police shot dead 34 striking mineworkers in Marikana on August 16. Ten people, including two police officers, were killed in the preceding week. – Sapa