Lt-Col Jimmy Lucas endured a day of tough questions from the Lwandle inquiry, but remained adamant he had done his best on June 2, the day he was in charge.
“I don’t think I would have done anything else other than what I did on that day.”
Human Settlements Minister Lindiwe Sisulu set up the inquiry, to probe the removals of June 2 and June 3.
Lucas said police were called to maintain public order and help the SA National Roads Agency Limited (Sanral) effect a court order to remove illegal shack dwellers from its land.
The police had anticipated they would be met with violence but were surprised at how quickly it escalated. Residents were seen throwing petrol bombs at police vehicles.
Inquiry members wanted to know why Lucas “disrespected” local councillor Mbuyiselo Matha, who pleaded with him on June 2 to call off the removals and negotiate around a table.
“You did not co-operate with that councillor… He felt belittled by yourself. We even saw him walk away and crying,” inquiry member Mampe Ramotsomai said.
The inquiry wanted to know why he had not asked Matha to speak with residents and calm the situation.
After watching the relevant video clip, Lucas testified that he spent 10 minutes listening to Matha, while monitoring the nearby angry crowd and deciding on the next move.
The inquiry felt the situation was not as tense as Lucas had suggested.
In reply, Lucas said of a man in the crowd: “That is a petrol bomb. That is not a beer he is drinking, honourable chairperson.”
The operational commander for June 3, Captain Andre de Graaff, did not appear before the inquiry on Tuesday, despite a subpoena.
The inquiry arranged for a postponement earlier in August to allow De Graaff to testify, as he was on leave at the time.
Advocate Ncumisa Mayosi, instructed by the State attorney on behalf of the SA Police Service, said the police intended taking up the matter internally.
“SAPS doesn’t have an explanation for why [he is not here] as he is expected to be here by his superiors,” she said.
The inquiry was postponed until Thursday for further police testimony.