‘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.

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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.

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