Cop quizzed about Marikana

FILE PICTURE: Retired Judge Ian Farlam. Picture: Christine Vermooten.

Stun grenades where thrown at protesting Lonmin mineworkers in an attempt to make them run, the Farlam Commission of Inquiry heard on Monday.

This made it easier for the police to ascertain whether they were carrying weapons, said Lt-Col Duncan Scott.

“What I have picked up from colleagues [police officers who were near the Marikana koppies] is that the strikers that were moving off, regrouped and then started walking again,” he told the commission.

“The explanation I was given was that stun grenades were used to break up the groups and hopefully to get them to start running. It is [more] difficult to conceal weapons when running than just walking away.”

The commission viewed footage of police officers throwing stun grenades from a helicopter. Evidence leader Matthew Chaskalson said there was little resemblance between what was shown on the video and what a policewoman who threw the grenades had told the commission in a statement.

According to her statement, a group of protesters armed with knobkerries, pangas and guns stormed the police. “What I would say is that this is what she is saying. We can’t see what she was seeing and it would be very wrong of me to think on her behalf,” Scott responded.

“Obviously, she would need to testify and tell the commission why she was throwing those grenades.” Chaskalson asked whether Scott had been informed about the incident in which the strikers had “stormed members of the SA Police Service”.

He replied that he had not heard about it. Scott helped draft the police plan which was to be used to try and disperse and disarm the striking mineworkers. The plan was referred to as the “Scott plan”.

Earlier, the commission’s chairman, retired judge Ian Farlam, turned down an application to postpone the public hearings.

Farlam ruled that the continuation of the public hearings would not be prejudicial to the miners who were wounded and arrested during strike-related unrest at Marikana last year.

“Their legal representatives will return to the commission. They will be able to see from the daily transcripts of the evidence led at the commission whether there are questions which they would have asked the witnesses in cross-examination if they had been here,” he said.

“The mere fact that their cross-examination will take place later than it would have done if they had been here all the time can scarcely cause prejudice,” he said.

Farlam said their legal representatives would be given a chance to apply to the commission for certain witnesses to be recalled for further cross-examination if the questions they wished to ask were relevant.

Mpofu, for the miners wounded and arrested during the labour unrest, filed an application for the postponement while he seeks funding for himself and his team.

He has already approached the high court and the Constitutional Court in an attempt to obtain State funding. Both courts have dismissed his application.

Mpofu will appeal the matter in the high court later this month. The commission, which is sitting in Centurion, is investigating the circumstances surrounding the deaths of 44 people during strike-related unrest around Lonmin Platinum’s Marikana operations last year.

Thirty-four people were shot dead, almost all of them striking mineworkers, on August 16, 2012, while the police were trying to disperse them. Ten people, including two policemen and two security officers, were killed in the preceding week.

The public hearings continue.


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