MARIKANA INQUIRY: SA POLICE VIDEOGRAPHER TAKES STAND
The South African Commission of Inquiry into the Marikana tragedy continued in Rustenburg this week with the cross examination of a police officer who was instrumental in filming the events that occurred between 13 and 16 August 2012.
The commission, chaired by retired Judge Ian Farlam, is tasked with establishing the cause of police opening fire on a group of striking miners employed by Lonmin platinum mine. More than 78 people were wounded in the incident.
President Jacob Zuma has given the commission until January 2013 to finalise its work.
Lieutenant Colonel Johannes Cornelius Botha, who took to the witness stand on Monday, testified that he saw several police nyalas (armoured vehicles), water cannons and other armoured vehicles carrying barbed wire gathering at the scene of the shootings but admitted to have captured little of the gun fire.
His explanation for this was that the helicopter he was in did not fly over one place but made several rounds over the informal settlement where some of the miners died.
Botha said had he known that the koppie, where most miners died, would be “a crime scene” he would have paid more attention to that area. He also said he did not know what the operation was about, but that he knew it was a big operation.
When asked by Advocate Dali Mpofu whether there were shots fired from the police chopper, Botha said he remembered only two stun grenades that were thrown on a group of people.
“I can confirm stun grenades were fired,” Botha said.
He disputed Mpofu's claim that there were 62 police nyalas dispatched at the scene on 16 August.
“That is not correct,” he replied. Botha also could not say whether there were shots fired from other police helicopters deployed in the area that day.
Meanwhile, the commission heard that government would continue to assist the families of the miners, following a decision last week by the Justice Department that it would no longer accommodate them for the entire duration of the inquiry.
In a statement read to the commission on Monday afternoon, Justice Minister Jeff Radebe is quoted as saying he had instructed the state law advisers to amend the regulations governing the Marikana Commission of Inquiry, to ensure that the state makes arrangements to assist representatives of the deceased victims.
The minister intended to submit the proposed amendment to the President before the end of the day. Reports suggested that the decision to discontinue support for the families was taken by the department on Saturday.
But Radebe said he regretted “any confusion and misconception that may have been created by the decision taken by the department”.
“Government has the interests of the families of victims at heart, hence we are working tirelessly to salvage the situation. It should also be noted that the interests of the families are safeguarded by the seasoned legal representatives currently participating in the inquiry which is underway,” said the statement.