Brigadier Adriaan Calitz said police believed the more than 3000 armed protesting strikers were prepared to resist any attempts to disperse them from the koppie (hill) near Lonmin’s platinum mining operation at Marikana near Rustenburg in North West.
“It was indeed said [by crime intelligence] that there were already 3000 people and they were not going to put down their weapons. They were going to resist the police and were going to fight,” he told the commission sitting in Centurion.
That account was communicated to police on the morning of August 16.
Later that day, 34 people, mostly striking miners, were shot dead and 78 were wounded when police fired on them while trying to disperse and disarm the group gathered at the hill.
In the preceding week, 10 people, including two policemen and two security guards, were killed near the mine.
President Jacob Zuma appointed the commission of inquiry, chaired by Farlam, in August last year to probe these events.
On Wednesday, Calitz was taken to task by the commission’s head of evidence leaders Geoff Budlender SC, regarding remarks he made on the morning of August 16.
In his affidavit, Calitz said “conventional policing methods” could no longer be applied as police intervention to curb the strike.
Budlender asked: “What you stated in that statement at 8 o’clock, was it the truth?”
Calitz agreed. He explained that at that stage, the police officers deployed at Marikana did not have “sufficient intelligence” to target the protesters’ residences, to search and seize weapons.
Such a move would have avoided a confrontation at the koppie.
“I have told this commission that a search [of the residences] could not be done because we did not have sufficient intelligence, we did not know where they were staying. It had been mentioned that they put up in the hostels but this was later proved incorrect because they were sleeping on the mountain,” said Calitz.
Commissioner Pingla Hemraj asked Calitz to explain why he thought normal policing measures would not work.
“I compiled that statement in the presence of our legal team. There were threats that were made to us on that day, that is why we prepared the statement,” said Calitz.
“I was saying our normal police procedures that we had followed up to that stage [including] the police presence there [at the koppie], everything had not worked. A decision was made on the 16th that we would start with the show of force.”
On Tuesday, Calitz told the commission the protesting mineworkers believed they were invincible before the shootings.
“We had received intelligence that there was this story around the muti and these people believed that the police would not be able to do anything to them. They believed that their [police] weapons would not be able to do anything.
“The police are being subjected to such things on a daily basis, for example in the cash-in-transit robberies. People use muti and believe that nothing will happen to them. At the end of the day, we had to act,” he said.
Calitz was one of the police commanders assigned to the operation during the labour unrest at Lonmin’s platinum mining operations at Marikana last year.
He said the police had been threatened and told to leave the Marikana koppie, where the strikers had gathered, six times in the hours before the shooting.