‘Poor planning behind Marikana shootings’

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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 -

Dubious decision-making, planning, and briefing of police officers led to the August 2012 Marikana shootings, the Farlam Commission of Inquiry heard on Thursday.

North West police air wing commander Lt-Col Salmon Vermaak said he agreed with international public order policing expert Gary White's criticism of the SA Police Service.

Vermaak was being cross-examined by Michelle le Roux, for the SA Human Rights Commission (SAHRC), at the commission's public hearings in Pretoria.

“Mr White states that 'I do not accept that the Marikana tragedy occurred because the police were not issued with correct equipment but instead it occurred because of poor planning, briefing, and poor decision-making',” Le Roux said.

She asked him whether he agreed with White's conclusion. He replied that essential equipment was at the Marikana police officers' disposal.

“I agree with him that there was poor planning and information,” said Vermaak.

“Equipment was available, but it was up to the right people to use the right equipment.”

White submitted an affidavit to the inquiry, at the request of the SAHRC, exploring the August 2012 shootings at Lonmin's platinum mining operations at Marikana, near Rustenburg, North West.

The three-member commission, chaired by retired judge Ian Farlam, is probing the deaths of 44 people during labour-related unrest at the mine.

On August 16, 2012, 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 attempting to disperse and disarm them.

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

Last month, Vermaak told the inquiry that police commanders deployed at the mine were not experienced in dealing with crowds and unrest.

“Of the people that I know, it is (Lt-Col Joseph) Merafe... he was the most experienced person in the public order policing unit and Brigadier Adriaan Calitz,” Vermaak said.

“Other people (police officers) from Pretoria that I met, I believe they had never been exposed to the experiences in the mines.” - Sapa


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