Marikana commission: Mpofu criticises SAPS using barbed wire

Dali Mpofu SC is representing wounded and arrested miners at the inquiry. (Oupa Nkosi, M&G)

Dali Mpofu SC is representing wounded and arrested miners at the inquiry. (Oupa Nkosi, M&G)

The roll-out of barbed wire by police sparked agitation among protesting Lonmin mineworkers in Marikana, the Farlam commission of inquiry heard on Tuesday.

Dali Mpofu SC, representing wounded and arrested miners at the inquiry, put it to Brigadier Adriaan Calitz that from their crowd control experiences, the police should have foreseen that strikers would retaliate and attack.

"You said that in previous similar incidents, when barbed wire is rolled out, hostile crowds either throw petrol bombs at the police or move away in the opposite direction. Let us replace the petrol bombs with spears [which the Marikana strikers were carrying].

"Just even from your own experience, it was predictable that they were going to either move away or they would throw at you the 'petrol bombs', attacking you with whatever they had. Let us eliminate the great idea that you thought they would run away – because it didn't happen," Mpofu said.

The police should have foreseen that possibility of an attack when they decided to use barbed wire, he said.

Calitz said that generally, in similar unrest situations, when barbed wire was used "the crowds run away and start screaming things".

Police's respect for citizens' rights
Mpofu questioned Calitz about the police's respect for citizens' rights to dignity, in the course of their duties.

"Would you agree that it would fall beyond that standard, for SAPS [South African Police Service] officers to be laughing around dead bodies?"

Calitz said police prescripts stated that no jokes were to be made around dead bodies, but circumstances played a significant role in the officers' attitude.

"I know of studies which have shown that people can behave in any way under such circumstances.
They may behave in a comical way," said Calitz.

"I agree with you that there was nothing funny to be laughing at where there were dead bodies."

Mpofu asked Calitz to give his opinion regarding the dragging of dead bodies and injured protesters, as seen on videos captured at Marikana, after the police shot at mineworkers on August 16 2012.

Calitz responded: “Dragging a body, even by a few metres, I would say it is inhumane. Moving the body of a person from a particular object, that is different. It needs to be as discreet as possible".

Unacceptable behaviour
Mpofu asked Calitz to explain the possibility of tampering with the scene when moving bodies. Calitz said the removal of bodies depended largely on the circumstances.

"If the person was lying on a weapon and he has to be removed in order to remove the weapon ... It is the handling of a crime scene, not tampering."

Mpofu said unless it was explained to the commission why police officers appeared to be laughing and dragging the bodies of the dead and wounded miners, their behaviour was unacceptable.

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

The commission, led by retired judge Ian Farlam, is probing the deaths of 44 people during labour-related unrest at Lonmin's platinum mining operations at Marikana.

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. They were trying to disperse and disarm them.

In the preceding week, 10 people, including two policemen and two security guards, were killed in strike-related violence. – Sapa

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