‘Opportunities for Marikana dialogue missed’

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iol news pic Judge Ian Farlam. INDEPENDENT NEWSPAPERS Judge Ian Farlam during the Marikana Commission of Enquiry. File photo: Dumisani Sibeko

Pretoria - More should have been done to encourage dialogue in the days before the August 2012 Marikana shootings, the Farlam Commission of Inquiry heard on Friday.

“I know of a number of people who endeavoured to try and do so (avoid the fatal confrontation between police and strikers). I think the last person in that line was Bishop Jo Seoka,” international law enforcement expert Cees de Rover told the inquiry in Pretoria.

“I am particularly looking at the 13th and 14th (August 2012) because those were days of relative calm. That's a missed chance of attempts at getting constructive dialogue going.

The Anglican Bishop of Pretoria was one of the religious leaders who mediated in talks between striking miners and Lonmin mine management.

The inquiry, chaired by retired judge Ian Farlam, is investigating the deaths of 44 people during a violent wage strike at Lonmin's platinum mining operations at Marikana, near Rustenburg, North West, two years ago.

Thirty-four people, mostly striking mineworkers, were shot dead in a clash with the police, more than 70 were wounded, and 250 were arrested on August 16, 2012. Police were apparently trying to disarm and disperse them.

In the preceding week, 10 people, including two policemen and two Lonmin security guards, were killed.

On Friday, De Rover said in his experience, without constant dialogue, engagements tended to turn confrontational.

“I have worked long with the United Nations, the core principle in any relationship is to try and maintain constructive dialogue,” he said.

It was problematic that the South African community seemingly accepted the high crime levels and violence, said De Rover, who started off his career in the Dutch police force in 1980.

“I have been in your country for one and a half years and the last time I went home it took me a week to get back to normality. (To understand that) I don't have to lock my doors, that it's all right to leave the keys in my car.

There were 1.2 million registered private security officers in the country.

“That's a demonstration of how safe your country is and an indication of how well your law enforcement is doing. They (private security) charge you for a service the police should give for free,” said De Rover.

Different sectors of society, including “people in government and individuals on the street” could have foreseen the possibility of catastrophe when images of “armed people outraged” were shown in the media in the days leading up to August 16, 2012, he said.

De Rover has submitted expert analysis of the Marikana shootings on behalf of the SA Police Service.

His resume indicates that he has “over 25 years experience in policing and international developments”.

He has worked with police forces in more than 60 countries.

In his analysis, he described himself as an independent expert and said his opinions were based on international legal standards which applied to law enforcement.

Sapa


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