Lt-Col Duncan Scott said the threats made by protesting mineworkers, wielding traditional weapons, on August 16, 2012 meant the threat of violence was escalating in the already charged environment.
“I interpret that to mean the strikers viewing the police as being a barrier, a stumbling block, to the movement of the crowd towards possible targets,” said Scott.
“Regarding the violent threats increasing against police, I don’t see that as something that would necessarily have subsided. It placed police in a position where they had to deal with lawlessness before it got out of hand.”
He said delays in police intervention at the scene would have given the protesters time to formulate plans on how to deal with the police.
Scott was being re-examined by Ishmael Semenya SC, for the police.
They scrutinised a video of the tense run-up to the August 16 shooting, showing an Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) delegation arrive around midday to address miners gathered on a hill at Marikana, near Rustenburg in North West.
Amcu president Joseph Mathunjwa started off by negotiating with the police and asking to use a police megaphone to address the strikers.
He told the crowd the union had experienced problems arranging a meeting with Lonmin that day because the bigger unions were not there.
“They say we are a smaller union and we know nothing. What we know is that we are Africans and we are entitled to rights,” he said.
“We need to be in a position to get residences and being able to send our children to school. They will be in charge of this Africa,” he said.
The striking miners sat on the ground, in the sun, listening to Mathunjwa’s speech. Afterwards, a miner stood up and addressed the crowd using the megaphone.
He said: “If the police claim to have safety, they should go and apply that safety to the employer. We are not leaving this place unless we get what we want.”
“Let them [police officers] go immediately. Those police brought here are going to remain here. They will not be able to get back into that hippo [referring to the police Nyala vehicle]. We will finish them here.”
His audience laughed at this remark.
“I am trying to understand what should be the reasonable response of police. You had three or four hundred people, armed to the teeth, saying the police are going to be killed that day,” said Semenya.
“What is the responsible police [supposed] to do? Walk away, go home?” he asked.
Scott replied: “No, the police… need to take action. On that day, with the threats that were being made to the police and the possibility of violence becoming more viable, the police needed to do something sooner [rather] than later.”
The three-member commission led by retired judge Ian Farlam is holding public hearings in Centurion. The other commissioners are senior advocates Bantubonke Tokota and Pingla Hemraj.
Thirty-four people, mostly striking miners, were shot dead on August 16 and 78 were wounded when the police fired on them while trying to disperse and disarm a group which had gathered on a hill near the mine.
In the preceding week, 10 people, including two policeman and two security guards, were hacked to death near the mine.
President Jacob Zuma appointed the commission in August last year.