Yadhana Jadoo
Political Editor
2 minute read
1 Nov 2012
11:00 am

SAPS helicopter “blissfully unaware” of Marikana massacre

Yadhana Jadoo

A police helicopter which flew over dispersal of striking miners on August 16 when 34 of them were shot dead, had failed at its function as it was meant to the Marikana Commission of Inquiry has heard.

RUSTENBURG, SOUTH AFRICA - AUGUST 16: People during the commemoration rally of the second anniversary of the Marikana massacre on August 16, 2014 in Rustenburg, South Africa. Thirty-four miners were killed by police on 16 August 2012 during a violent wage increase protest. (Photo by Gallo Images / Sunday Times / Waldo Swiegers)

People had lost their lives on the ground and those in the helicopter were “blissfully unaware” of what occured, Advocate Schalk Burger on behalf of Lonmin mine told the Commission yesterday.

He spoke during the cross examination of police forensic expert Lt-col Cornelius Johannes Botha who was tasked with filming a video from the helicopter on the day of operations.

Botha said in reply that he had performed his duty as he was supposed to.

The 41 minute long video that was viewed by the commission on Monday had been Botha’s first recording from the air in his 26 years of duty.

A first shooting by police was not recorded while he was in flight and neither was the second at behind a koppie, the commission heard.

It was only when Botha touched ground that he was told “a lot of people had been killed”, and that people were needed to process scenes.

“You take 80 percent of your time to film what is with great respect irrelevant,” said Burger.

Botha said he could not comment on this.

According to Botha, those in the helicopter including himself and a police Brigadier wore earphones.

There was a lot of talking but most of what was said could not be heard, he said.

The role of the Brigadier or who he specifically spoke to on the ground was also not know, the commission heard.

Burger said he would submit that the Brigadier was clearly in charge of the helicopter on the day.

Despite his vague recollection of events, Botha managed to remember the Brigadier saying that the helicopter must move away from the area because of air traffic, or they may die.

Four helicopters were in the air at the time, and two stun grenades had been released from the one he was in, Botha said on Monday.

Burger asked if Botha could accept that crowd control was being conducted from the helicopter.

“I can accept it but I am not an operational person,” replied Botha.
Under questions on communication from from Burger, Botha could not dispute that there was constant communication between operational units at the koppie and helicopters, and conceded that there could not have been such a big operation without radio communication.

Burger would also submit that that there was no Lonmin helicopter in the air at the time of dispersal.

Botha was previously questioned about a 9 day meeting that he attended in Potchefstroom prior to the commission. The purpose of the meeting was to prepare a presentation for the commission.

It was very difficult to say who was at the meeting because of the number of people who attended, said Botha.

There were general discussions at that meeting but he could not remember what was said or who had chaired it.