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Pretoria - Police elite units were at Marikana to protect other police units during the August 2012 wage-related unrest, the Farlam Commission of Inquiry heard on Thursday.
North West deputy police chief Ganasen Naidoo told the Farlam Commission of Inquiry in Pretoria these included the tactical response team (TRT).
The unit was brought to scene after information was received that some miners were armed.
He was led in giving evidence by Ishmael Semenya SC, representing SA Police Service at the inquiry.
“My understanding is that the public order police (POP) were engaged with the large crowd, negotiating with them to lay down their weapons. The TRT line was put behind the POP to protect their rear,” said Naidoo.
“The POP unit primarily uses non-lethal weapons, even though each of them had 9mm (pistols). The idea was to protect their lives when they utilize the non-lethal weapons from elements that had weapons.”
Naidoo said the miners were carrying lethal weapons and the police feared the intervening officers could be “overrun”.
“It is reality that there was within the miners a group that was heavily armed and they could easily overrun the POP,” said Naidoo.
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.
The public hearings resume on Friday.