Pretoria - Police did not want to arrest all the protesting mineworkers during the 2012 violent protest at Marikana, the Farlam Commission of Inquiry heard on Monday.
The policeman in charge of the SA Police Service's intervention to curb the wage-related strike, Brigadier Adriaan Calitz was questioned by evidence leader Matthew Chaskalson SC regarding the 259 miners who were arrested during a blitz operation that left 34 miners dead.
“You said the total number of arrests made at different locations was 259. You said 29 were arrested to the western direction and the rest were arrested inside the koppie hill,” said Chaskalson.
“Out of the two to three thousand people that you saw, you ended up arresting only 29?”
Calitz said it was impossible to arrest everyone and many got away.
“There is no indication that if there are two thousand people you have to arrest all two thousand. People run away,” said Calitz.
“That is the number of the people who were arrested and disarmed. There is mention of 500 people (protesters) that went through the police filtering line, so quite a number of people went away.”
He said the police officers had been briefed not to arrest the protesters, on the condition that they abandoned their weapons. The officers had also been mandated to proceed with the dispersal, which Calitz said went on successfully.
The three-member commission, chaired by retired judge Ian Farlam, resumed its public hearings in Pretoria on Monday after adjourning on December 5.
The commission is mandated to probe the deaths of 44 people during labour-related unrest at Lonmin's platinum mining operations at Marikana, near Rustenburg, in North West.
In September 2012, the National Prosecuting Authority withdrew murder charges brought against 270 Lonmin mineworkers and they were released on a warning.
“The murder charge against the current 270 suspects... will be formally withdrawn provisionally in court on their next court appearance,” Nomgcobo Jiba, acting national deputy director of public prosecutions, said at the time.
The workers were arrested for public violence on August 16, 2012, after 34 of their colleagues were shot dead by police at the Lonmin mine.
Another 78 were injured.
The decision to charge the mineworkers with the murder of their colleagues had been roundly condemned by unions, civil society, law experts and political parties.
The commission is expected to complete its investigation, including the gathering of evidence and concluding the public hearings, by April 30. -Sapa