4 minute read
11 Nov 2014
5:22 pm

Strikers at Marikana posed no threat to police

Strikers never posed a threat to the police tactical response team (TRT) on August 16, when 34 miners were killed at Marikana in 2012, the Farlam Commission of Inquiry heard in Pretoria on Tuesday.

FILE PICTURE: Judge Ian Farlam. Picture: Refilwe Modise.

“The killings were a result of police using completely disproportionate force on August 16,” said Dumisa Ntsebeza, for the families of the miners killed in the 2012 strike.

“All the people who were shot, all of them… the one thing we are submitting at this stage, they were shot multiple times with a fatal wound being to their upper body, which is why we making the point about disproportionate force.”

He mentioned the names of several miners killed whose bodies were evidence of this disproportionate force.

“In addition to the nature of the injuries we are in agreement with the evidence leaders, one of those rare moments, with the disproportionate nature of the shooting at scene one,” he said.

“TRT shooters continued to fire after any perceived threat could be seen… but it was clear even after the first volley, that there is no justification for any firing at mineworkers beyond the first three seconds, even assuming there was justification for firing within those first three seconds.”

If there was anything to be inferred from the kind of conduct shown by police, it was certainly not the conduct of a person who regretted errors made as to whether he was under attack or not, Ntsebeza said.

“Even if there was a threat or perceived threat to the TRT line at scene one, what the police officers did was absolutely disproportionate…There was no threat. The strikers never posed any threat to the TRT line… in terms of the distance where they were found and their deaths were clearly unlawful.”

It was clear from the objective evidence that they were killed unlawfully, he said.

Referencing previous testimony from the police, Ntsebeza said the R5 rifle used was a powerful weapon, lethal from at certain distance, which was a representation of the disproportionate nature of the force used by police on both August 13 and August 16.

For the four miners killed on August 13, Ntsebeza said it was police who had instigated the confrontation with miners, and not the other way round.

“It is clear to us the strikers were walking peacefully in the direction of the koppi when there was this unprovoked attack on them by means of teargas and stun grenade and it is even so that they had not changed their direction [from] the informal settlements,” Ntsebeza said.

“The subsequent discharge of teargas and stun grenades by the SAPS was unprovoked, unnecessary and without reason.”

A separate matter that Ntsebeza could not accept was how injured miners were treated after the shooting had stopped, as he asserted police did little, if anything, to help those they had wounded.

“There is that spectacle of the man writhing with pain who dies a horrible death. In fact when his family sees how he dies, they get reduced to painful tears because he dies in circumstances where people are milling around,” he said.

“What we see there is this callousness, this absolute disregard for people who have been injured. Is this what we expect in a democracy? That [Marikana] was not a war zone, but even in a war zone the Geneva Convention makes provisions for the treatment of those who get injured.”

Before the end of his submission, Ntsebeza showed graphic pictures of four miners shot on August 16, with three of the miners disfigured to the degree they could not be recognised due to gunshot wounds to their faces.

Several family members looked away, shielding their eyes as the pictures were shown to the room.

Another miner was shown slumped on the ground, a hole in his neck with a visible blood trail apparent, while of the three mutilated miners, one had wounds all over his body, having been 30m away from police when the shooting began.

“Can all of this be in aid of self defence?” Ntsebeza asked.

The commission is investigating the deaths of 44 people at Lonmin’s platinum mining operations in Marikana, North West, in the strike-related unrest in August 2012.

Thirty-four people, mostly striking mineworkers, were shot dead in a clash with police on August 16, 2012.

More than 70 people were wounded and more than 200 were arrested. The police were apparently trying to disarm and disperse them.

In the preceding week, 10 people were killed.