South Africa: Marikana Families Weep

A woman wept at the Farlam Commission of Inquiry on Thursday as North West police chief Lt-Gen Zukiswa Mbombo extended an olive branch to victims of the August 2012 Marikana shootings.

After testifying at the inquiry, being held at the Tshwane municipal chambers, Mbombo asked to address the commission.

"To all the people who lost their loved ones, to those who were injured, I want to say the police have a responsibility to protect," Mbombo said.

"Killing people is not an intention of the police. My plea to all the people of this country is that do not turn you backs against police. My other plea to South Africans is that we should help one another, to help the police when they encounter such problems."

Family members of the victims started leaving the auditorium as Mbombo spoke, prompting commission chairman, retired judge Ian Farlam, to issue a warning.

"People who are leaving the chamber must please be quiet. I don't want disturbances of this kind," he said.

A woman wailed and was escorted out of the chambers by other women.

Mbombo concluded her evidence to the commission and another police witness was scheduled to take the stand on Thursday afternoon.

Earlier, Mbombo said police did not expect that protesting Lonmin mineworkers would be killed in police operations during the wage-related unrest in Marikana, North West, in August 2012.

"We had our regulations to disarm and arrest the people."

She said police would not have proceeded with their operation had they known people would be killed.

"We did not want to see any bloodshed. We did not want anyone to die. We knew that these people were armed and had already killed certain people, but we were not hoping for bloodshed."

Mbombo was being re-examined by Ishmael Semenya, for the SA Police Service.

Semenya asked Mbombo to explain what would have happened on August 16, 2012 if the protesters had not "attacked" the police.

Mbombo said, in her view, there would not have been any casualties.

Farlam reminded Semenya that it had not been ascertained whether the protesters had attacked the police.

"You know that it is an area of dispute at the moment, whether the strikers were actually attacking the police or were endeavouring to get through to Nkaneng [informal settlement]. You can't put the question across as if that is an established fact.

"It is one of the matters which will be argued in the end and this commission will have to make a finding," said Farlam.

The commission is probing the deaths of 44 people at Lonmin's platinum mining operations in Marikana, near Rustenburg.

On August 16, 2012, 34 people, mostly striking miners, were shot dead and 78 people were wounded when police fired on a group gathered at a hill near the mine. In the preceding week, 10 people, including two policemen and two security guards, were killed in the strike-related violence.

President Jacob Zuma established the inquiry shortly after the shootings.

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