Pretoria - The police should have conducted their own internal review into flaws in its Marikana operation, the Farlam Commission of Inquiry heard on Tuesday.
Representative for families of deceased miners, Nicole Lewis, told the inquiry in Pretoria that by not conducting its own review, the police were grossly negligent.
She was cross-examining North West police chief Lt-Gen Zukiswa Mbombo.
“At the conclusion of proceedings, we will argue that it was a grossly negligent stance for you as provincial commissioner and for the SAPS as a whole not to conduct your own review in the meantime,” said Lewis.
“A total of 34 people were killed. It's the largest number of people killed by police in a single operation since Sharpeville. Do you not think it's important for SAPS to establish what went wrong?”
Mbombo said a review of the Marikana operation was not done yet because the police awaited the Farlam commission's findings.
“After it was announced that a commission has been announced, I agreed with other senior officers that we were not going to do a de-briefing. The commission would give us an objective analysis.
“It is not that we did not view it as important,” said Mbombo.
Lewis asked Mbombo to explain why she did not believe an internal review had to be conducted in the SAPS as the Farlam commission's existence had been extended.
“If mistakes are made during public order operations in the interim and people get injured or killed, do you not think that is grossly negligent? Such mistakes could be avoided by conducting a proper internal review.”
She said there had been a sharp increase in violent protests. She highlighted the recent killing of four protesters in Mothutlung, outside Brits in the North West.
Mbombo said she was not sure if the Mothutlung deaths had anything to do with the Farlam commission.
Lewis responded: “You said you will conduct a review once this commission is finished. There have been protests in the interim and people have been killed. It is possible that that may have been prevented if a proper review of the operation at Marikana had been done in the interim?”
The police chief said that even though a review was not done, “other things” were currently being undertaken to avoid a recurrence of the Marikana deaths.
The commission, led by retired judge Ian Farlam, is probing the deaths of 44 people in Marikana. 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. They were trying to disperse and disarm them. In the preceding week, 10
people, including two policemen and two security guards, were killed in strike-related violence.
President Jacob Zuma established the inquiry shortly after the shootings.
On Tuesday, the commission heard the SAPS still had to call 85 more witnesses.
Ishmael Semenya, SC, representing the police at the inquiry, said not all the 85 witnesses would be brought to testify at the inquiry. He proposed that some of the witnesses would provide affidavits stating their involvement at Marikana.
Schalk Burger, SC, for Lonmin, said he was “greatly perturbed” by the suggestion that there were 85 more SAPS witnesses to testify.
“We had a ruling here that we should expedite matters. Since August last year we have finished three witnesses, we now hear that there are 85 to go. We must finish by April. We just don't know how that will happen,” said Burger.
Farlam said the police evidence list would be scrutinised, to eliminate some of the witnesses. The public hearings resume on Thursday.