Rustenburg - Protesting mineworkers who survived the initial shooting by police at Marikana on August 16 were “searched and then shot again”, the Farlam commission heard on Thursday.
Advocate Lesego Mmusi, for protesters who were arrested after the shooting, said even the protesters who surrendered were shot by police officers.
File photo: A member of the special task force stands guard in Marikana, near Rustenburg in the North West, during the miners' strike. Credit: Reuters
This emerged when Mmusi cross-examined public order policing expert, Brigadier Zephania Mkhwanazi, on crowd control measures the police implemented that day.
“Evidence will be led, that after the eight seconds shooting, police approached the protesters who had been shot and were lying on the ground,” he said.
“They searched them one by one, checking if they are dead. Those who were not dead were shot again.”
At that stage, retired judge Ian Farlam, chairman of the three-member commission intervened, asked Mmusi if he would be bringing witnesses to substantiate his claims.
“Assuming that this is going to be the evidence, I now want to invite your opinion as an expert,” Mmusi told Mkhwanazi.
The senior policeman initially declined to comment.
Farlam said in addition to Mmusi’s claims, there were allegations that some of the victims were run over by police Nyalas. He invited Mkhwanazi to comment again.
“I did not have that information, I am hearing it from you now. If that was done, it cannot be the use of minimum force (as prescribed for police interventions),” said Mkhwanazi.
Mmusi continued: “Evidence will also be led that at Scene 2 (the second koppie) the protesters who had ran from koppie 1, whilst they were hiding, the police shot at them.
“The protesters made an agreement (among themselves) to come out of the hiding place, raised their arms as a sign of surrendering. The police shot at those protesters nevertheless. That evidence will be led.”
At that stage, legal representative for the police, Ishmael Semenya, SC, objected. He said Mkhwanazi was not in a position to be commenting on the allegations.
“These are questions which should properly be put to witnesses who can counter and confirm them.”
Mkhwanazi was not part of the police intervention at the wage-related strikes at Marikana. He was called to the commission to give “expert opinion” on crowd management.
Mmusi insisted: “This is an expert who knows about crowd management. At that stage, the police were dealing with crowd management, it had not become crime prevention. The questions I put to him are informed by that background.”
Farlam instructed Mmusi to formulate his questions.
As the cross-examination continued, Mmusi said the reasonable action by the police officers faced with the Marikana stand-off would have been cordoning off the koppies in the evening.
“The police considered the gatherings at koppie 1 and 2 illegal. At night, the protesters would leave to go to their homes,” said Mmusi.
“You would not dispute if I say cordoning off the meeting places of the strikers was the plausible thing to do before August 16?”
In response, Mkhwanazi said on August 15 there was an agreement which the police hoped would make the protesters disperse willingly from the koppies.
The hearing continues.
The judicial commission is holding public hearings at the Rustenburg Civic Centre. The other commissioners are senior advocates Bantubonke Tokota and Pingla Hemraj.
Thirty-four striking miners were shot dead on August 16 and 78 wounded when the police opened fire on them while trying to disperse a group gathered on a hill near Lonmin's platinum mine.
In the preceding week, 10 people, including two police officers and two security guards, were hacked to death near the mine.
President Jacob Zuma announced the commission in August. It was given four months to complete its work. - Sapa