Debate over Farlam adjournment

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Pretoria - The SA Police Service requested an adjournment of the public hearings of the Farlam Commission of Inquiry on Tuesday, to enable Brigadier Adriaan Calitz to formulate responses to allegations of inaccuracies.

The application, brought by Ishmael Semenya SC, was vehemently opposed by George Bizos SC, for the Legal Resources Centre.

Semenya said “a witness of the brigadier’s stature surely requires to give informed and advised responses” to numerous assertions made by evidence leader Matthew Chaskalson SC, suggesting the police evidence on what happened at Marikana in August 2012 was riddled with inaccuracies.

“We are then asking for a stand-down of these hearings to Thursday to enable us to look at the material (put across by Chaskalson) and to familiarise the witness with the material for him to give considered answers to it.”

Bizos said it was irregular for Semenya to advise a witness who was already on the stand.

“The witness is already under cross-examination. My learned friend (Semenya) claims the right to consult with him and to advise him on what answers to give. What does he mean when he says he wants to advise him?

“To say that the witness will consult with an expert, what will the expert advise him on? This cross-examination relates to facts that were in his (sworn) statement. Why does he need a consultation as to which answers he should give? The witness should not be assisted, it's contrary to long-standing rules.”

Bizos said he was ready to tackle the senior policeman in the next cross-examination.

“He is a brigadier, he can look after himself. We cannot have in perpetuity people being assisted in what evidence they have to give. They (the police) have been exposed to contradictions in their evidence.

“We strongly object to the application for a stand-down of further cross-examinations,” said Bizos.

Semenya said experts would analyse the evidence, including photographs and videos, to see if the inferences made by the evidence leaders were indeed correct.

Legal representatives for the families of the deceased mineworkers threw their weight behind Bizos's objection.

Eventually, commission chairman retired judge Ian Farlam ruled that a session be held where parties, including the SAPS representatives, Chaskalson, and other lawyers, went through the evidence together.

“Nothing is to be told to the witness as to what he has to say. No advice should be given to him. He will merely understand, as everyone else, what the thrust of the criticism (raised by Chaskalson) is,” said Farlam.

Earlier on Tuesday, Chaskalson told the commission the inaccuracies in the SAPS version of the events might have been deliberate.

“I have a range of concerns about the inaccuracies and I am happy to put them to you. My concern about the misleading statements and inaccuracies is that I am worried that they may have been deliberate,” Chaskalson said.

In contrast to the police version, Chaskalson said Calitz's vehicle did not head to the body of a slain former mineworker Thobile Mpumza, 26, identified at the commission as victim C.

“Not only was your vehicle the last to leave, but it didn't even head in the direction of the body of Mr Mpumza. It didn’t drive to Mr Mpumza at all, it drove straight to koppie (hill) three in its final position,” said Chaskalson.

“It also seems that someone in your vehicle knew that koppie three was a massive crime scene which needed to be attended to. Warrant Officer Nong was taking photographs of suspects at (e.tv recording time) 16:25.22 and he was photographing dead bodies by 16:37.50. I have a range of concerns about those inaccuracies.”

Chaskalson asked Calitz to explain, as the Marikana operational commander, why he had not taken steps to control his forces' “engagement” with the protesters after ordering the confrontation.

“You just ordered your POP (public order policing) members to get out of the Nyalas under protection and to engage the strikers who had re-grouped and had been surrounded. You knew that the strikers that your forces were going to engage were with the militant group with firearms and traditional weapons.

“In particular, you must have known that the terrain at the koppie was much more complicated than the open area where you had arrested people in the north west. You knew that some of the members needed to be controlled on the use of force,” said Chaskalson.

The public hearings would resume on Thursday as the venue was not available on Wednesday.

The commission is probing the deaths of 44 people during labour-related unrest at Lonmin's Marikana mine near Rustenburg, North West.

On August 16, 2012, 34 people, mostly striking miners, were shot dead and 78 were wounded when police fired on a group gathered at a hill near the mine while attempting to disperse and disarm them. In the preceding week, 10 people, including two policemen and two security guards, were killed.

Calitz was the commander in charge of the police operations on the scene on the day of the shooting.

The commission is expected to complete its investigation, including the gathering of evidence and concluding the public hearings, by April 30. -Sapa


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