‘Miners did not shoot at police’ – new Marikana report

Six years after the Marikana massacre, it has emerged that striking mine workers did not attack police at “the small koppie”, despite police testimony of protesters having shot at police.

READ MORE: ‘Miners shot while hiding or fleeing’

This is according to new Institute for Security Studies (ISS) research, which was released on Wednesday, a day short of the sixth anniversary of the Marikana massacre.

The shootings at the Lonmin Marikana mine took place at two distinct locations, roughly 500-metres apart, with a period of 15 minutes passing between the first shooting and the beginning of the second series of shootings.

The commission of inquiry into the massacre, which was chaired by Judge Ian Farlam, rejected the police’s explanation for the deaths at the now infamous “Scene 2” — the second location at which shootings took place on August 16 2012 — where 17 of the 34 striking workers killed that day.

The Farlam report was released by government in June 2015, but as yet, no full account has been provided of what actually happened at the second scene. The new report is based on photographs, witness statements and forensic evidence presented to the commission, working to reveal what happened at the second scene. The study aims to provide answers about how and why the 17 men were killed.


Independent researcher David Bruce — who is an expert on the massacre and policing in South Africa — compiled the report. Based on Bruce’s analysis, the report concludes that it is unlikely that there were any attacks by strikers on police at the second scene.

At the presentation of the report at the ISS’s headquarters in Pretoria, Bruce emphasised that the events of Monday August 13, during which two police officers were killed by strikers, likely coloured the attitudes of the South African Police Services towards the miners in the coming days.

In their collective anxiety, many of the police officers probably did not differentiate the strikers on August 16 to those who attacked police three days earlier, Bruce said.

“At the very least, there is no convincing or persuasive evidence of any deliberate attacks on police at Scene 2. If there had been such attacks, there should be no reason why the police could not present consistent evidence of this,” reads the report.

These findings contradict police statements presented to the Independent Police Investigative Directorate a day after the massacre. Bruce reveals a number of inconsistencies in these statements.

The report surmises that the gunshots police believed — or said they believed — were coming from striking workers, were likely “friendly fire” coming from other police teams approaching at different sides of the koppie.

In a situation where police officers are unable to identify the source of gunfire, protocol requires that they take cover until they can. But it is likely that the emotive dimension of strike action clouded the judgment of the officers, Bruce said.

In his opening presentation at the release of the report, head of justice and violence prevention at ISS Gareth Newham said: “Since Marikana, the most shocking thing to take note of is the complete lack of accountability of any of the SAPS commanders and officials involved.”

READ MORE: Police to finally appear in court for Marikana murders

If South Africa is to learn anything from Marikana and its aftermath, a clearly planned process of police reform is required, Newham added.

Subscribe to the M&G

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

Sarah Smit
Sarah Smit
Sarah Smit is a general news reporter at the Mail & Guardian. She covers topics relating to labour, corruption and the law.

Related stories

Some black lives matter, others don’t

We condemn the killing of a black Americans, yet women, African foreigners and queer people are regularly abused and killed in SA

SA needs to restrain use of force by police

‘Less lethal’ weapons have resulted in deaths and severe injuries, yet there are still no guidelines

Review: The pandemic could change politics as we know it. Here’s a guidebook

Jakkie Cilliers’s book about igniting a growth revolution in Africa has some timely lessons as we seek ways to mitigate the economic effects of Covid-19

Don’t wage war against SA’s poor

The coronavirus pandemic has revealed heavy-handed, brutal and, at times, lethal action by some members of the police

The lockdown: South Africa’s test of its democracy

How South African citizens, the police and the army, and politicians behave during the 21-day lockdown will have far-reaching implications for our democracy

What Bernie Sanders needs to learn from black voters in South Africa

Senator Sanders must explicitly demonstrate that a US government that can guarantee universal healthcare is the best path to building long-term black wealth
Advertising

The PPE scandal that the Treasury hasn’t touched

Many government officials have been talking tough about dealing with rampant corruption in PPE procurement but the majority won't even release names of who has benefited from the R10-billion spend

ANC still at odds over how to tackle leaders facing...

The ANC’s top six has been mandated to work closely with its integrity committee to tackle claims of corruption against senior party members
Advertising

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…

The best local and international journalism

handpicked and in your inbox every weekday