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Excessive force at Marikana: expert

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iol news pic Ian Farlam

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Honourable Judge Ian Gordon Farlam during the public hearing of the Marikana Commission of Enquiry to investigate the Marikana tragedy. File picture: Dumisani Sibeko

Pretoria - Police use excessive force during the deadly strike in Marikana, North West, the Farlam Commission of Inquiry heard on Wednesday.

“The reason police should fire is to stop the threat. It's not about killing someone,” public order policing expert Gary White said.

Police fired 327 live rounds of ammunition at striking Lonmin miners on August 16, 2012.

White said he watched the video of the shooting but could not see what police were shooting at as there was smoke.

“If you can't see what you are firing at, what's the point of shooting?”

He said in a number of police statements there was no explanation of what officers were firing at.

White said he was aware there was evidence of shots being fired at police, but they could have run away.

The law was clear, lethal fire should be used as last resort, he said.

White criticised police for not having a written plan to deal with strikers in Marikana.

Earlier he testified about a confrontation police had with strikers carrying traditional weapons near a railway line at Marikana on August 13, 2012. Two policemen were killed and one was wounded after strikers refused to disarm.

“If the intention was to disarm and disperse, the operation needed to be planned,” White said.

If the strikers were carrying traditional weapons, he suspected they would not voluntarily put them down.

White said there was no plan as to how the crowd should be disarmed and dispersed. There was also no plan about what to do if the strikers refused to disarm.

White said he was shocked police had so little information.

“I would have expected that there was intelligence to tell who the group was and their intention... how likely they were going to be violent towards the police,” he said.

The commission is investigating the deaths of 44 people during strike-related violence at Lonmin's platinum mining operations in Marikana.

Thirty-four people, mostly striking mineworkers, were shot dead in a clash with police, over 70 were wounded, and another 250 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 security guards, were killed.

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