Police to finally appear in court for Marikana murders

President Cyril Ramaphosa said the massacre “stands out as the darkest moment in the life of our young democracy”. (Delwyn Verasamy/M&G)

President Cyril Ramaphosa said the massacre “stands out as the darkest moment in the life of our young democracy”. (Delwyn Verasamy/M&G)

The slow wheels of justice are finally beginning to turn with the first police officers who allegedly murdered striking workers during the 2012 Marikana protest will appear in court this week.

This is the first time in six years that police officers will appear in court on charges of murder.

The Mail and Guardian understands that nine officers will be appearing before the Rustenburg magistrates court on Thursday on a number of charges including murder, attempted murder and defeating the ends of justice.

The officers will appear for the incident of August 13 2012 when the striking miners were stopped by the police as they were making their way back to the koppie from the mines.

Police officers will appear in court for the death of Thembelakhe Mati, Semi Jokanisi and Phumzile Sokhanyile.

The NPA’s spokesperson, Luvuyo Mfaku said he could not comment on the case until the suspects had appeared in court, but it is understood that the officers were handed notices to appear in court a few weeks ago and a date had been set.

The investigation into the murders that occurred on August 16 is still ongoing and will not form part of this court appearance.

Meanwhile, the Hawks have confirmed the case will be heard on Thursday.

“The investigation has shown those police officers who are going to be charged were responsible for the deaths of three miners. At this stage we can’t name the suspects,” he said.

He added that there was a body found on the 16th in a police truck.

“This body was concealed as police officers did not report that there was a person that was arrested and died in the vehicle.
This was discovered by IPID investigators and part of the charges relate to that death.”

Socio-Economic Rights Institute (SERI), which represents the families of the deceased miners, said the families have been informed of the information provided by IPID and the families want to be present at the Rustenburg court on Thursday.

Back in 2012 on August 13, days into the strike action, it was brought to the striking miners’ attention that some of their colleagues were still working. About 200 strikers went to Lonmin’s K3 shaft to request the mine management to close the mine and allow the workers there to join the strike.

READ MORE: Marikana then and now — a tragedy that keeps unfolding

According to the evidence presented before the Farlam Commission the security at the shaft said no one was at work and so the miners turned back and on their way to the koppie they met the police under the North West deputy police boss Major-General William Mpembe near the railway line.

According to the police’s version, Mpembe told strikers to surrender their weapons but was told by the miners that the weapons for self-defence against National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) members.

The miners requested that the police escort them back to the koppie. Mpembe finally agreed but as the miners started moving a teargas canister was fired. This triggered a fight between the strikers and the police as the strikers attacked the police.

About 20 teargas and 10 stun grenades were fired, two police officers and three miners were killed.

Though there seems to be some progress Seri added that the delay has been difficult and frustrating for the families.

“The wheels of justice have been turning slowly. The families want to be present at Court to put a face to the people who shot and killed their loved ones.  Most importantly the families want closure and an understanding of what happened on that day and what has subsequently transpired with the investigations led by IPID.”

Athandiwe Saba

Athandiwe Saba

Athandiwe Saba is a multi award-winning journalist who is passionate about data, human interest issues, governance and everything that isn’t on social media. She is an author, an avid reader and trying to find the answer to the perfect balance between investigative journalism, online audiences and the decline in newspaper sales. It’s a rough world and a rewarding profession. Read more from Athandiwe Saba

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