“I have acknowledged in all my statements that there were a lot of heavily armed people with traditional weapons. I do not dispute that the threats that the police were facing, particularly on the 16th [August 2012], were from firearms,” said public order policing expert Gary White.
“This was a very difficult, complex, and dangerous operation for SAPS [the SA Police Service]. I have said that I have sympathy for an organisation having to deal with this.”
However, White said it would be fallacious to suggest that every person in the crowd had to be considered dangerous. Public order policing principles still had to be applied.
“This was a crowd management situation with additional complexities and threats. My criticism [of the SAPS] is based on the response to the threat faced by police,” he said.
“In the wide spectrum of public order events, the situation at Marikana was extremely challenging but that does not mean that the application of public order crowd management principles was no longer appropriate.”
In his statements to the inquiry, White has criticised the implementation of the SAPS intervention plan drawn up by Lt-Col Duncan Scott.
White was led in giving evidence to the inquiry by Michelle le Roux, for the SA Human Rights Commission (SAHRC).
The SAHRC had asked White, an international public order policing expert and a former chief superintendent of Northern Ireland’s police service, to submit a professional analysis of the Marikana shootings.
Last year, Le Roux said White’s criticism related to planning, leadership, and the execution of the operation, which had been described as haphazard, rushed, negligent, and inadequate.
The inquiry, chaired by retired judge Ian Farlam, is investigating the deaths of 44 people during strike-related violence at Lonmin’s platinum mining operations at Marikana, near Rustenburg in the North West.
Thirty-four people, mostly striking mineworkers, were shot dead in a clash with police, over 70 were wounded, and another 250 arrested on August 16, 2012. Police were apparently trying to disarm and disperse them.
In the preceding week, 10 people, including two policemen and two security guards, were killed.