/ 21 October 2013

New Marikana footage points finger at police

Striking miners at Lonmin's Marikana mine.
Striking miners at Lonmin's Marikana mine. (AFP)

The Marikana Support Committee has called for the police officers present when 34 miners were killed at Lonmin's Marikana platinum mine on August 16 last year to be charged with murder following the release of new, apparently damning, footage of the massacre.

Filmmaker Rehad Desai, who is a member of the committee, screened footage he had uncovered during the course of researching his documentary about the events of August last year, at a special press conference in Johannesburg on Monday.

Desai said this new footage, shot from a "fourth camera angle", "put paid" to the South African Police Service's "official narrative that police spontaneously used their firearms in the face of an alleged imminent attack by miners that jeopardised police officers".

The footage, previously unseen by the public, first shows miners peacefully moving off the koppie towards the Wonderkop informal settlement in the presence of police and army armoured vehicles.

​Video from SABCdigitalnews

According to Desai, it appears as if the leaders of the strike, including Mambush Noki, commonly known as the "Man in the Green Blanket", are the first to leave the koppie. Others follow, moving slowly and in an apparently unthreatening manner.

The Nyalas and other armoured vehicles are then captured continuously moving and herding the miners away from the direction of the Wonderkop informal settlement, which they appear to be moving towards.

Instead, the movement of armoured vehicles appears to shepherd the miners towards the line of Tactical Response Team police from whose angle footage previously made public through media news channels has been viewed.

From this fourth camera angle, one can see police firing what appears to be birdshot from between the Nyalas at the shepherded miners. Tear gas also appears to have been fired. The under-fire miners are still moving slowly, crouching and attempting to avoid being hit by what appears to be birdshot from the side.

Then, the volley of live ammunition commonly witnessed in footage so far made public, can be heard. At moments, the line of police firing can be seen. The miners are obscured by an armoured vehicle.

Desai said this new footage "put paid" to the argument that police had acted in self-defence and was more suggestive of premeditated action on their part.

Desai also noted that the new footage shows "the police taking out their pistols from their holsters well before the alleged attack and before the miners arrived on the scene".

He also pointed out "that firearms can be heard to be 'cocked' on four occasions, and on two of these occasions can be seen and heard on the footage". This, Desai said, happens well before the miners, who are blocked off from the Wonderkop informal settlement, start to approach the police line while under fire from the birdshot.

The drawing and cocking of weapons, said Desai, was against police standing orders, which were explicit that guns should only be drawn in the case of "imminent danger".

Standing order 262, which governs police action in situations such Marikana, prohibits the use of live ammunition by police and is explicit that reasonable and minimum force may only be used on the instruction of a commander.

'Older model'
Lieutenant General Duncan Scott, who drew up the operational plan for August 16, told the Farlam commission of inquiry set up to investigate the events of August last year, that he didn't know the details of Standing Order 262 and had been working from an "older model" when he drew up the plans.

His testimony raises further questions about who exactly in the police chain of command gave the order for deadly force to be used on August 16 last year.

Scott is due to return to the witness stand at the commission on October 23.

On behalf of the Marikana Support Campaign, Desai called on the National Director of Public Prosecutions to withdraw charges laid against the 270 arrested and injured miners and, instead, to charge the police officers present on August 16 with murder.

The new evidence also raises questions about what threat the police faced at Marikana that would justify the use of lethal force. The police have consistently maintained that they acted in self-defence.

In 2012, the Criminal Procedure Act was amended to allow a stricter test to be applied when police use force when effecting arrests. But this test requires that an immediate threat should be present before police use force on suspects, either to prevent a crime from occurring or to protect themselves.