17 June 2014

South Africa: Marikana Commission - When 'Warning Shots' Kill and Wound

Photo: Sapa
Protesters gather on the lawns below the Union Buildings in Pretoria in an attempt to get state funding for legal counsel at the inquiry investigating strike-related violence at Marikana (file photo).


As an elite police unit commander on the ground is cross-examined at the Marikana Commission, it's becoming clear just how crucial Colonel Modiba is to understanding the how and why of what happened at Marikana.

Colonel Kaizer Ntlou Modiba was the commander of 96 National Intervention Unit (NIU) policemen on 16 August 2012. Unusually, he and his men were at both Scene 1 and Scene 2 - each of the two locations where 17 striking miners were killed by police bullets.

Let us be clear: he and his unit did not fire at Scene 1, the infamous shooting we all watched time and again on television. The NIU were there as backup to their colleagues. Rather, it is at Scene 2 that Modiba's NIU took centre stage.

The mentality of the police plan crystallises once you think in the apparently simplistic terms in which the various units presented themselves for duty at Marikana. There were four types of police unit there. The first were the Public Order Police, or POP, who are usually relied upon to sort out troublesome protestors. They could have had, but did not have, plastic shields and batons. Instead they had stun grenades,...

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