18 March 2014

South Africa: Marikana Miners Were Uninformed - Mpofu

Photo: Sapa
Police on the scene at Lonmin platinum mine in Marikana in the North West (file photo).

Pretoria — Protesting Marikana miners were not told why they were being arrested in August 2012, the Farlam Commission of Inquiry heard on Tuesday.

Dali Mpofu SC, for arrested and wounded miners, put it to North West deputy police chief Maj-Gen Ganasen Naidoo that his clients did not know their crime, when they were arrested at a koppie near Lonmin Platinum mine in Marikana.

"None of the people I represent were ever told what they were being arrested for. They were not told," said Mpofu.

"There is a point of immediacy [for informing an arrested person of the offence]. On your version they were only informed after they were taken to various police stations."

Naidoo said such a scenario was highly unlikely.

"Immediately when they were confronted by police [at the koppie] it was about laying down their weapons, the policemen were communicating with them.

"The people that were being arrested knew why they were being arrested. They knew they were in possession of weapons which they were not supposed to be in possession of," said Naidoo.

Mpofu said his clients were informed of the reasons for their arrests around three hours after they were detained.

"It's one thing for you to say 'they knew' and a different thing to be told that you are being arrested for shooting so and so. So if I shoot someone and the police arrest me I must know that it must have something to do with that?"

Naidoo said most of the police officers were communicating with the protesters in vernacular and he did not know what they were saying.

He said the miners gathering was illegal and police had good reason to disperse them. Police were also aiming to arrest the protesters who did not disarm voluntarily.

Mpofu asked Naidoo to explain whether it would be possible to identify the individual arrested miners and match them with their particular weapons.

Naidoo responded: "It would be difficult. It was a mass arrest. In some cases it might be possible, but very difficult".

Naidoo was one of the lead police commanders during the police operation to control a violent strike-related protest at Lonmin's Marikana mine, near Rustenburg in North West.

He had previously admitted he fired shots during the August 16, 2012 clash between police and the miners.

The commission led by retired judge Ian Farlam is probing the deaths of 44 people at Lonmin's platinum mining operations in Marikana, near Rustenburg, North West.

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 while trying to disarm and disperse them.

In the preceding week, 10 people, including two policemen and two security guards, were killed in the strike-related violence.

The hearings would resume on Monday.

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