The deaths of 34 miners at Marikana was a “well organised, premeditated slaughter”, which saw the majority of miners killed while hiding from police.

This is the theory put forward by a team of University of Johannesburg researchers, lead by Sociology Professor Peter Alexander.

Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID) spokesman Moses Dlamini said they had found “two scenes where the shootings happened. All of these were cordoned off properly”. Dlamini said it was true that the majority of people were shot at one of the two locations – however, he could not say whether this was at the koppie or the location where the police had placed the fence.

Alexander, whose research has covered the nature of protests, visited the scene of the massacre last week and found two crime scenes – a fact which he believes contradicts the official police line that police opened fire in self-defence. In addition to the 34 dead strikers, 78 others were injured.

Last Thursday national police commissioner General Riah Phiyega defended the police action.

According to Phiyega, after police commenced with the “dispersion action”, “the armed protesters were driven from their stronghold, to a high bushy ground close to the vicinity”.

Alexander says it is likely the miners were killed at what he calls “the killing koppie” while hiding from police.

His team found several yellow police markers on the rocky outcrop. The markers were an indication of where crime scene investigators had removed bodies.

“We had assumed that the killings were much closer to the mountain than that. But it made complete sense to us when we found the place because it’s a place where you think you can hide from the police,” Alexander said.

“I think it was an area of cover. There’s bullets going all around so you want to find a place where you can shelter. So that was the nearest place where there was some shelter in that direction,” he said.

Alexander believes police had the intention of opening fire on workers on that day.

“The police had left a gap in the razor wire. If they were very worried about their safety, they would have closed that gap. They left the gap open, and that made it easier for them to shoot people,” he said.

Alexander also questioned whether the crime scene could have been contaminated by police, as an area of grass was burnt where community members alleged that police had “run over” strikers with Nyalas.

“On a number of occasions they’ve mention about how the Nyalas killed people. As I understand it, that’s on the way between the mountain and the killing koppie. That’s an area where it’s now been scorched, the earth has been burnt down,” he said.

Police spokesman Dennis Adriao said the police would not comment on the August 16 shooting and referred all questions to the IPID.

Dlamini refuted allegations that the crime scene had been tampered with, even though residents seemed to have collected several hundred cartridges which they handed to President Jacob Zuma when he visitedlast week.

“The issue with the casings, what needs to be established is where they were found,” he said.

Meanwhile, police weapons which were used on the day have been handed in for ballistic testing, and some had already been tested by Thursday.

The IPID was also still awaiting autopsy results from state pathologists, and had taken several witness statements from the 259 miners who are in custody.

Adriao said police had arrested eight men in connection with the 10 murders which preceded the August 16 massacre. After appearing in the Rustenburg Magistrate’s Court, six of the men were granted bail. Two others are under police guard in hospital.

Sunday Independent