16 November 2012

South Africa: Marikana Cop Did Not Hear Gunfire

Photo: Werner Beukes/SAPA
Police at Lonmin's troubled Marikana mine in the North West, Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Rustenburg — A crime scene analyst did not hear gunfire from the scene of a second shooting near Lonmin's Marikana mine on August 16, the Farlam Commission heard on Thursday.

Warrant Officer Patric Thamae told the commission he had arrived at the scene of the first shooting by 4pm.

The second shooting, which took place about 500 metres from the first, happened around 4.07pm, according to a timeline presented by the SA Police Service.

The commission is holding public hearings in Rustenburg as part of its investigation into the killing of 34 miners on August 16.

Some of them, were found dead at Wonderkop, a hilltop near the mine, in North West, and where the strikers had gathered before the shooting.

They had been shot by police who were trying to disperse the striking workers.

The commission's chairman, retired judge Ian Farlam, said Thamae must have been mistaken.

"Either you are mistaken as to the time you got there, or evidence that you did not hear shooting is incorrect," Farlam said.

Thamae was adamant that he heard no shooting, and would not concede that he was mistaken as to his time of arrival.

"Upon my arrival there was no shooting at both scenes."

He then said: "Different firearms make different amounts of noise... If it is a firearm with a low [level of] noise, I wouldn't have [heard it]."

Thamae said a total of 210 rifle bullet cases were recovered at the Wonderkop scene. Thirty-one pistol cartridge cases and 57 shotgun bullet cases were also recovered.

When Thamae arrived at the scene, he also found a pile of traditional weapons, including sticks and pangas, which had been gathered together.

He did not know who had collected them, and proceeded to arrange the weapons neatly and photograph them.

Thamae could also not tell the commission the distance between the police line and the protesters.

He said "it never came to my mind" to ask the distance between the shot protesters and the police firing line.

The commission heard previously that the police had shot in self-defence.

Before the lunch break, the commission viewed video footage of the scene.

The video opened with patches of blood on the grass and shoes lying abandoned.

Blood-soaked bodies were scattered in some places, and in one place there were several corpses clustered together.

Some of the images were graphic, and the families of those killed were given an opportunity to leave the hall if they wished.

There was a branch of thorns caught in the clothing of one of the dead protesters.

Towards the end of the footage, which was filmed about two hours after the shooting, paramedics could be seen attending to the wounded.

Some of the wounded were moving, others were lying still.

The hearing continues on Friday.

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Environmental organisation groundWork has nominated Lonmin as one of the world's worst companies of 2012. An inquiry is still under way after 34 miners were shot dead when police ... Read more »