Marikana commission: Strikers used muti, believed they were invincible

Police crime intelligence gathered information that protesting Marikana mineworkers performed muti rituals and believed they were invincible before the August 16 shootings last year.

Brigadier Adriaan Calitz told the Farlam commission of inquiry in Centurion on Tuesday that even though the strikers believed they were invincible police had to intervene to curb the violent strike.

"We had received intelligence that there was this story around the muti and these people believed that the police would not be able to do anything to them. They believed that their [police] weapons would not be able to do anything.

"The police are being subjected to such things on a daily basis, for example in the cash-in-transit robberies. People use muti and believe that nothing will happen to them. At the end of the day, we had to act," he said.

Calitz was one of the police commanders assigned to the operation during the labour unrest at Lonmin's platinum mining operations at Marikana, near Rustenburg in North West last year.

He said the police had been threatened and told to leave the Marikana koppie, where the strikers had gathered, six times in the hours before the shooting.

'Deliberate action by protesters'
Ishmael Semenya, for the police, asked Calitz to explain whether police were sure that methods like verbal orders, use of stun grenades, water cannon, rubber bullets, and the display of force would not have caused the protesters to disperse from the koppie.

Calitz said: "From my own experience based on around 20 years in charge of the public order policing, it is not the first time I was giving instructions for dispersal. These methods [the water cannon, stun grenades, and verbal orders] always work correctly.

"People [protesters] take the easiest way out to avoid being shot or being arrested."

He rubbished claims that the mineworkers "misunderstood" the purpose of barbed wired, which led to the chaotic confrontation.

"It [the rolling out of barbed wire] was not misunderstood. The purpose of the barbed wire had been explained to them. It [the confrontation] was a deliberate action by protesters," said Calitz.

Live ammunition at strikers
On Monday, Calitz told the commission he was unaware that mineworkers "lying around" after the encounter with police were dead.

In a sworn statement submitted to the commission, Calitz testified that due to the noise around the koppie, he had not heard the police tactical response team firing live ammunition at the strikers.

"I contacted Lieutenant Colonel [Solomon] Vermaak on radio and inquired from him why the tactical response team was not following our dispersal action. He said he would go and check and later reported that the tactical response team were at the kraal and there were bodies lying around," said Calitz.

"I thought, given my experience and the absence of such a report to me, that the bodies referred to people who were injured by the dispersion action or lying down to be arrested."

Calitz detailed how he instructed officers to pursue protesters who were escaping in the northern and western directions. He urged the officers to arrest the fleeing protesters.

"I gave clear instructions over the radio to the dispersion group [police officers] 'do not shoot unless the target engages you'. I repeated the instruction to ensure that members understood me clearly," said Calitz.

"The shooting I was referring to [meant the use of] rubber rounds and not sharp ammunition. They were to use rubber only as a last resort if the armed strikers approached them with dangerous weapons."

Three-member commission
The three-member commission led by retired judge Ian Farlam is holding public hearings. The other commissioners are senior advocates Bantubonke Tokota and Pingla Hemraj.

Thirty-four people, mostly striking miners, were shot dead on August 16 2012, and 78 were wounded when police fired on them while trying to disperse and disarm a group which had gathered on a hill near Lonmin's platinum mining operations.

In the preceding week, 10 people, including two police officers and two security guards, were killed near the mine.

President Jacob Zuma appointed the commission in August last year. – 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


Subscribers only

The South African connection: How mercenaries aided Trump ally in...

The UN found that Trump ally Erik Prince violated the Libyan arms embargo. Here are the South Africans the report says helped him to do so

Q&A Sessions: African court ‘will be a tough job’ — Dumisa...

Lawyer, author and political activist Dumisa Ntsebeza talks to Nicolene de Wee about his appointment as judge of the African Court on Human and...

More top stories

In a bizarre twist VBS liquidators sue KPMG for R863mn

In filed court documents, the VBS liquidators are blaming auditing firm KPMG’s negligence for the alleged looting of the bank

Snip, snip: Mboweni eyes wage bill, other future spending cuts

Last year, the finance minister noted that increased government spending has failed to promote growth over the past decade

Budget: Mboweni pegs recovery hopes on vaccine efficacy, lower public...

The treasury forecasts 3.3% growth, but warns this will fall to 1.6% if the fledgeling vaccination programme fails to stem successive Covid waves

READ IT IN FULL: Mboweni’s 2021 budget speech

Read the finance minister's address on the budget for 2021

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…