Marikana police plan under fire

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Copy of ca p4 marikana cops done.JPG REUTERS A policeman gestures in front of some of the dead miners after they were shot outside Lonmin mine in Rustenburg. File photo: Siphiwe Sibeko

Pretoria - A police plan to curb violence at Lonmin's mining operations at Marikana should have been put into practice differently, North West police officer Lt-Col Salmon Vermaak said on Wednesday.

“I believe that if myself or Brigadier (Adriaan) Calitz was in charge of that (August 2012) operation we would have only used public order policing members,” he said.

Vermaak was being cross-examined by Anthony Gotz, for the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu), in the public hearings of the Farlam Commission of Inquiry in Pretoria.

Gotz asked the senior policeman to explain whether the introduction of the police “paramilitary units” at the mine unrest was problematic.

Vermaak responded: “I cannot comment on why they took the decision to deploy the TRT (tactical response unit) and STF (special task force).

“With the information that had been given, with regard to experience of mines unrest, and also considering that these people would not hand over their traditional weapons, there should not have been a plan B.”

He said the protesters had made it clear to the police that they would not voluntarily disarm and approaching them would only result in a confrontation.

“Myself, I would not try to approach the people on the koppie (hill), especially after the experiences of Monday (August 13, 2012), where it became clear they were not going to hand over the weapons,” Vermaak said.

“If you take that information into consideration, I believe that there was another approach that could have been used.”

Vermaak had 16 years experience as a commander in the POP unit before becoming North West provincial airwing commander - a position he holds now.

Last month, Vermaak told the inquiry police commanders at Marikana, during the violent strike-related unrest were not experienced in crowd management and unrest scenarios.

Two police officers - Warrant Officers Sello Leepaku and Tsietsi Monene - were hacked to death on August 13, 2012 in a confrontation between the protesting miners and police near a railway line at Marikana. Three miners were killed.

Three days later, on August 16, 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 allegedly trying to disarm and disperse them.

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

The commission led by retired judge Ian Farlam is probing the 44 deaths. - Sapa

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