14 October 2013

South Africa: Mortuary Vehicles Called Before Marikana Shootings

Pretoria — Senior police officers wanted four mortuary vehicles to be at the hill at Marikana hours before the shootings on August 16 last year, the Farlam Commission of Inquiry heard on Monday.

Evidence leader Matthew Chaskalson SC, sought answers from Lt-Col Duncan Scott about the SA Police Service's (SAPS) intervention methods to curb the violent, strike-related protests.

"It appears that at some stage before 8.30 in the morning of the 16th [of August] colonels Klassen and Madoda of SAPS arranged that the Phokeng mortuary would be called to request four mortuary vehicles to come to Marikana because 'they were going to close down the miners in Marikana'.

"Only one vehicle was sent. It arrived there before any shootings took place.

"Now, the only Colonel Klassen whom we are aware that was involved in this [Marikana] operation is from the Katlehong TRT [tactical response team]. Are you aware of that Colonel Klassen?" Chaskalson asked Scott, who said he was.

Chaskalson put it to him that the Madoda named was the cluster detectives co-ordinator for the Rustenburg division.

Scott said he did not know Madoda.

Chaskalson went on: "By 8.30 on the 16th, these two colonels anticipated that there may be people killed in the process of closing down the miners.

"They wanted four mortuary vehicles. Do you know how many bodies one mortuary vehicle can take?"

Scott said he did not know.

Chaskalson asked: "Have you ever been involved in operations that have resulted in multiple deaths of suspects?"

Scott said he had been involved in such incidents, but "not to the extent of Marikana".

Chaskalson said: "Well, no one has in this country since 1960 [referring to the Sharpeville massacre]. Do you know if three or four people's bodies can fit in one mortuary vehicle? Were you not there when the mortuary vehicle arrived?"

Scott said he did not know, and had not seen the mortuary vehicle at the hill in Marikana where the shootings too place.

Chaskalson then asked if the issue of bringing mortuary vehicles had been discussed at the security joint operations committee.

Scott said he could not recall.

Scott played a pivotal role in drawing up the police plan to intervene during the unrest at Marikana. The plan became known as the "Scott plan".

Earlier, the commission heard that lawyers for the miners who were wounded and arrested at Marikana are expected to return, following a brief withdrawal.

"We have been informed reliably by one of our colleagues... that the application for funding has succeeded. I wish to place that on record," said George Bizos SC, for the Legal Resources Centre and the Bench Marks Foundation.

The miners' legal team, led by Dali Mpofu, won a court application for state funding in the High Court in Johannesburg on Monday.

Bizos said he hoped the court victory would minimise the need for postponements, which had been a frequent feature at the commission.

Mpofu temporarily withdrew from the inquiry because of a lack of funding, pending a review application to set aside a decision by the minister of justice and Legal Aid Board to refuse the miners state funding.

Mpofu said the miners had been denied the right to a fair public hearing and the decision was therefore unconstitutional.

He said that without the miners' input, the commission's only function would be to "whitewash the police".

In July, the high court dismissed an urgent application by the miners for interim funding so they could be represented at the inquiry pending the outcome of their review application.

On August 19, the Constitutional Court refused Mpofu's team leave to appeal this ruling because the main issue had not yet been decided.

The inquiry, sitting in Centurion, is looking into the circumstances surrounding the deaths of 44 people at Marikana, near Rustenburg, in North West, last August.

The police shot dead 34 people, mostly striking workers, wounded 70, and arrested 250 on August 16, 2012. In the preceding week, 10 people died, including two policemen and two security guards.

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