This emerged from the testimony of Lt-Col Duncan Scott who played a pivotal role in drawing up the plan. The plan included dispersing, disarming and arresting striking mineworkers at Lonmin’s platinum mine last August.
Scott’s version of events varied from that of Maj-Gen Charl Annandale who said in earlier proceedings that plans to implement stage three were finalised two days before they were rolled out.
Scott told the commission on Thursday he was unaware that his superiors met on August 15, 2012 to discuss their next move. On the morning of August 16, North West police commissioner Luzuko Mbombo held a media briefing where she said police intended ending the strike that day.
Scott was not present at the briefing, and said he was not immediately informed of the police’s intentions. He said it was confirmed at 1.30pm that stage three would be put into action. At 2.30pm he briefed around 20 commanders about the plan. None of them disputed nor added submissions to it. At 3pm commanders were to start briefing their troops.
The plan was scheduled to have been rolled out by 3.30pm, but this only happened around 3.40pm. Police had maintained their plan was disrupted, which resulted in them shooting dead 34 people shortly before 5pm that day.
On Thursday, Scott said had more time been made available, the situation would have turned out differently. “Had the plan been successfully executed, there would have been fewer injuries. Given the time we had I feel we did the best we could.”
Scott said had he known earlier that phase three was officially given the go-ahead, he would have spent more time on its details. While Scott had been tasked with putting the plan together, he told the commission he did not know the details of Standing Order 262. It contains guidelines of how police should perform crowd management during protests and public unrest. He said he received training on an older module.
None of the public order police (POP) were present when his seniors approved the plan. The POP would have been responsible for executing the dispersal plan.
The commission, sitting in Centurion, is investigating the deaths of 44 people during the strike-related unrest. Police shot dead 34 mineworkers on August 16, while 10 people, including two policemen and two security guards, were killed in the preceding week.
President Jacob Zuma had the commission established shortly after the shootings. It first sat last October and, after numerous delays and several extensions, was scheduled to conclude its work at the end of October this year.
On Thursday, commission chairman retired Judge Ian Farlam said he had asked for another extension. Zuma agreed, and a new deadline to conclude proceedings would be announced later.
The commission was adjourned on Thursday. It was set to continue on October 14.