Marikana: Miners were not aware of cops

The Farlam commission has heard that protesters did not see the police before being shot at. (Madelene Cronje, M&G)

The Farlam commission has heard that protesters did not see the police before being shot at. (Madelene Cronje, M&G)

Miners running from a hill at Marikana on August 16 2012, did not know they were heading straight for a police line, the Farlam commission of inquiry heard on Thursday.

Dali Mpofu SC, representing wounded and arrested Marikana miners at the inquiry, put it to Brigadier Adriaan Calitz that his clients' view was obscured by Nyala police vehicles.

"My point is that the reason why the view between the approaching strikers and the tactical response team's line was obscured, is because of those Nyalas that were in front of them. The Nyalas subsequently made way," said Mpofu.

"The shooting happened almost immediately after one of the Nyalas cleared the way and the volley of bullets came. It's like there is a Nyala, and they [protesters] are coming.
It opens the way, and they get shot."

Calitz said he did not understand Mpofu's assertion. Mpofu went on: "You have testified that the line was not there when the people were blocked by Nyala four. When they were going around the kraal, surely they did not know that the people [police] had run and formed the basic line."

The three-member commission's chairperson, retired judge Ian Farlam, intervened, urging Mpofu to move to another point in his cross-examination. "Please let us move on to matters that he can deal with effectively, which will enable you to get answers of value for you to argue with at the end of the case."

Mpofu insisted that Calitz take the questions. "With respect, chairperson, I can't see why any human being, whether it's this witness or another person cannot answer the questions."

No trouble
Farlam ordered Mpofu to move to another point of his cross-examination.

Earlier, Mpofu said that when the protesting mineworkers left the hill, they were not looking for trouble. They were simply going to the Nkaneng informal settlement when they were attacked by police, he said. "As far as using the path [to Nkaneng] is concerned, the only difference between the first group and the other group behind them, is that those who came first managed to go through, while those who followed were blocked," said Mpofu.

Calitz said protesters who were peaceful were permitted to go through, and that "militant groups" were intercepted by the police. "The peaceful groups moved, and the militant groups remained behind [at the hill]. It is not as if it was a coincidence that they [peaceful protesters] went past," said Calitz.

Mpofu said members of the militant group were not able to proceed to the informal settlement, because the path was blocked by a Nyala police vehicle.

Calitz disagreed: "That is not correct. They did not proceed because they chose to carry out an attack [on police officers]."

Calitz was the operational police commander during the protracted strike at Marikana, near Rustenburg.

The commission of inquiry is probing the circumstances surrounding the deaths of 44 people during labour-related unrest at Lonmin's platinum mining operations at Marikana, near Rustenburg, North West. On August 16 2012, 34 people, mostly striking miners, were shot dead and 78 people were wounded when the 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 in unrest-related violence.

The public hearings resume on Friday. – Sapa

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