17 August 2012

South Africa: Marikana Massacre - President Must Launch a Full Judicial Commission of Inquiry

Photo: Greg Marinovich/Daily Maverick
Striking workers at Lonmin's Marikana mine. The shooting erupted when police sought to disperse armed, striking workers who had gathered on a hill, in the area that had already seen several deaths in violent protests in the past week.

press release

The DA calls on President Zuma to launch a full Judicial Commission of Inquiry into the Marikana massacre and the questions that this has raised around the use of force by the South African Police Service (SAPS).

On Thursday, the police opened fire on protestors at the Lonmin mine in the North West. The massacre which ensued and the use of live ammunition by the police have raised some very serious questions about how the SAPS manage violent protests. In particular, we want to know who authorised the use of live ammunition on the striking workers. We have to know what the line of command was for yesterday's protest. Whoever gave the order to use live ammunition and open fire must be held accountable.

In August 2011, Minister Mthethwa approved a policy to better manage public protests. The policy called for the establishment of National Public Order Policing Units, which had been disbanded in 2006.

One of the key principles of the policy was that members of these units would have to go through specialised training courses on how to manage public protests. It also highlighted the need for a strong line of command and control to ensure that all members involved in policing protest action know which role to play.

The irony of this situation is that yesterday a revised policy document on public order policing was distributed for comment to various members of the SAPS. This begs the question as to whether the policy that was originally drafted was sufficient for public protests.

The protest yesterday has shown the failure by the top management of the SAPS to implement this policy effectively.

The nation deserves answers as to why this massacre happened. We will be calling on the President today to launch a full Commission of Inquiry into the massacre. The Commission of Inquiry should not only look into the actions of the police but also those of the labour organisations.

The inquiry should look into the following issues:

  • Who authorised the use of live ammunition at the mine?
  • Who was in command of the various police units at the mine?
  • Who issued the order to fire?
  • Who was responsible for planning the operation?
  • On what intelligence was the planning conducted?

How many police, who participated in the operation, were actually trained in (a) public order policing and (b) the use of the weapons with which they were issued?

Whether there has been incitement to violence by any of the labour organisations involved.

The Commission of Inquiry will also provide us with a better understanding of whether the police acted unlawfully or in self-defence and whether the current policy is insufficient to deal with public protests in South Africa.

The victims and their families, as well as the nation, deserve answers as to what happened yesterday. We can never have another Marikana Massacre.

Dianne Kohler Barnard, Shadow Minister of Police

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