/ 28 November 2013

Marikana operation flawed, says evidence leader

The Farlam Commission has begun and so far it has shown that the bodies of miners weren't limited to a specific spot
The Farlam Commission has begun and so far it has shown that the bodies of miners weren't limited to a specific spot

The police intervention plan to curb the labour unrest at Lonmin mine at Marikana last year was faulty, the Farlam Commission heard on Thursday.

Evidence leaders head Geoff Budlender SC, said that for close to an hour the operational commander at Marikana Brigadier Adriaan Calitz did not know that his charges had shot dead protesters on August 16 last year.

"Evidence will be led that there was an e.tv broadcast shortly after 4pm in which the shootings at scene one were shown. Anyone who saw that [TV broadcast] would have known that the shootings had taken place," Budlender said.

"You were the operational commander, yet you knew nothing about the shootings for nearly an hour."

Budlender said the shootings happened at 3.53pm and Calitz was only informed at 4.47pm.

Calitz agreed. He said he did not hear the volley of police bullets because the Nyala he was in was noisy.

Massive failure 
Budlender said Calitz was either lying to the commission about his alleged "ignorance" regarding the scene one shootings or his ignorance exposed fundamental failure in the execution of the intervention plan.

"This was a big and important operation. Brigadier, if 16 people were shot dead [at scene one] by members of the SA Police Service and the operational commander knew nothing about it for 54 minutes, that reveals a fundamental, massive failure because the commander should have known immediately.

"If an operational commander doesn't know the way the operation is being carried out then that is a flaw in the operation."

Calitz disagreed.

"It depends on what the briefing was to the operational commander. I cannot agree with what is being put to me. There were problems with the radios and I do not know who tried to contact me," he said.

"The other operational officers who were at Marikana are properly trained people and they knew what their job was. It was important, however, that the operational commander should be kept informed."

Communication breakdown 
Commission chairman, retired judge Ian Farlam, said the officers' communication did not look right.

"It does look as if something went wrong because the information that you should have been receiving was not being conveyed to you. Is it correct to say your subordinates were under a duty to keep you updated?"

Calitz agreed. He said there was a problem with the police's analogue radios. He said his subordinates also attempted to call him on his mobile phone.

On Wednesday, Calitz said police at Marikana had 225 R5 rifles on the day 34 people were shot.

"For the benefit of the commission, we have asked the SAPS how many R5s were on the scene that day [August 16] and they said there were 225," Budlender told the commission.

He then cross-examined Calitz about the ammunition.

"Did you not instruct Colonel [Joseph] Merafe for [an] additional 4500 rounds for the R5 rifles?"

Calitz replied: "I did not give that instruction to Colonel Merafe on that day [August 16] as he says. Not at all."

The commission is investigating the circumstances surrounding the deaths of 44 people during strike-related unrest at Lonmin's platinum mining operations at Marikana, near Rustenberg in North West last year.

On August 16 2012, 34 people, mostly striking miners, were shot dead and 78 were wounded when police fired on a group gathered at a hill near the mine while attempting to disperse and disarm them.

In the preceding week, 10 people, including two policemen and two security guards, were killed. –Sapa