Marikana: Top police commander clueless on police policy

A top cop told the Farlam commission on Tuesday that he could not recall ever seeing the police’s official crime scene policy. Lieutenant Colonel Kaizer Modiba was the operational commander of the national intervention unit (NIU) members who were present at Marikana on August 16 2012, when 34 striking miners were shot and killed by the police. 

Modiba and his group were tasked to provide backup support during the police’s negotiations with the strikers, and then later to sweep the koppie for weapons.

During his cross-examination by evidence leader advocate Matthew Chaskalson, Modiba admitted he had seen when miners were gunned down in a volley of police fire at what has become known as scene one and was aware that injuries were probably sustained when he saw bodies lying on the ground. His response however was to instruct the NIU members to continue to the koppie to sweep for weapons.

Chaskalson criticised Modiba’s actions based on the fact that most NIU members had level three first aid qualification as part of their NIU training and, according to the official South African Police Service crime scene policy, the first member at the crime scene “with due consideration of the integrity of physical evidence, must assist the injured within the limitation of his or her training as a matter of priority”.

When questioned, Modiba could not recall ever reading the police’s crime scene policy, but said that SAPS did regularly forward policy documents to unit commanders to distribute among their members. He also admitted that at a crime scene he would normally assess any injuries and then call for medical assistance.

‘Complying with the task’
Despite this, Modiba instructed his members to continue sweeping the koppie as per their initial briefing. “The shooting involved the tactical response team, which I believe had their commanders in front [so] that they could take care of that, so I was just complying with the task that was initially given to intervention [the NIU],” Modiba told the commission. 

“According to me there was nothing wrong for NIU to continue sweeping koppie one as directed. There could still be firearms or dangerous weapons that we could seize from the koppie.”

Modiba also claimed that he wasn’t sure if his members had first aid equipment with them, and he also made no effort to find out if any of the nearby police vehicles contained first aid kits.

Chaskalson then told the commission that “the medical evidence suggest that if basic first aid had been applied at scene one [before the medics arrived], at least one victim would’ve survived”, as he continued his criticism of Modiba for not deploying any of his members to assist the shot miners.

Modiba brushed this off by saying he was sure someone had informed the joint operational centre (JOC) of the shooting incident, even though he had not, and that it would be their responsibility to deal with the situation. 

The cross-examination of Modiba will continue on Wednesday morning.

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