Senior police officers did not want Economic Freedom Fighters' leader Julius Malema to address striking mineworkers at Marikana as he would gain credibility, the Farlam commission of inquiry heard on Tuesday.
Evidence leaders' head Geoff Budlender SC, questioned North West provincial police commissioner Lieutenant General Zukiswa Mbombo about a transcript of a meeting between her and Lonmin mine executives, including Barnard Mokwena and Jomo Kwadi, on August 14 2012, two days before the shooting.
Mbombo was recorded as saying: "At Impala [mine], Malema came with our [North West] premier and spoke to those people, and ourselves, as the police, we managed to manage the situation after Malema came … Our discussion with the national commissioner was around this thing now happening, to say again, Malema come and defuse this thing. It becomes as if Malema has taken charge of the mining, the mine."
Mbombo hinted at Malema's campaign to nationalise South Africa's mines. She said the Marikana stand-off had to be defused by "moving in to kill it".
On Tuesday, Budlender said the transcript indicated that the police did not want Malema to address the striking Marikana mineworkers in an effort to defuse the situation.
"You were concerned that Mr Malema might arrive and gain influence, or gain credibility from the way he handles the situation. That is clearly what it means," said Budlender. "You and the national commissioner were concerned that Mr Malema should not get credit for defusing the situation."
Mbombo said her goal was to find a peaceful solution to the stand-off.
Budlender asked Mbombo whether her statement from the transcript should be interpreted by the inquiry to mean that it was a good thing for Malema to come and help defuse the situation at Lonmin. She agreed. Unconvinced, Budlender said: "I want to put to you that your explanation is simply inconsistent with what you say."
He said she was influenced by the political consideration that she did not want Malema to gain any credibility or support as a result of an intervention. Mbombo refuted this suggestion.
"In our job, we have to be careful of not involving anybody who we don't know can be able to sort the problem we would be facing. In Xhosa there is saying which says 'too many cooks spoil the broth'."
Budlender responded: "If you are having trouble with the broth, then someone comes along to solve the problem of the broth, you should welcome that person, even if it's Mr Malema."
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 Lonmin's platinum mining operations at Marikana, near Rustenburg in North West, while trying to disperse and disarm them.
In the preceding week, 10 people, including two police officer and two security guards, were killed in strike-related violence. – Sapa