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Pretoria - Several police officers deployed at Marikana had failed a shooting exercise, the Farlam Commission of Inquiry heard on Tuesday.
Michelle le Roux, for the SA Human Rights Commission, was cross-examining North West police chief Lt-Gen Zukiswa Mbombo at the inquiry's public hearings in Pretoria.
Le Roux asked Mbombo to explain if the police officers' failure had any bearing on the execution of their duties, particularly in the intervention to manage the August 2012 wage-related strike at Lonmin's platinum mine.
Le Roux said exhibits presented to the inquiry indicated that 20 police members who had failed their most recent shooting practice had fired at Marikana.
“We also see that 18 of them fired live ammunition despite some of them having failed their firearms training,” she said.
“Does the fact that they had failed have any relevance to what they did at Marikana? Should we draw anything from the way they conducted themselves at Marikana and the fact that they had failed their shooting practice?”
Mbombo said she was not well informed about the officers' training. However, she said she knew that most of those conducting crowd management had passed the course.
“I am surprised by the information I am seeing here. What I know is that most of the officers were trained in crowd management and they passed it,” she said.
Le Roux asked Mbombo to explain the corrective measures taken for those officers who failed critical policing courses.
“If a member fails a maintenance shooting practice, does it have any consequences on their carrying firearms when deployed on duty?”
Mbombo said those who failed the “maintenance shooting” exercises were already proficient in using firearms.
“There is no way we can deploy a police officer with a firearm that he is not able to use, or with a firearm that he is permitted to use,” Mbombo said.
Quoting a statement from international public order policing (POP) expert Gary White, Le Roux said: “Mr White says POP experience is undoubtedly useful but it is not sufficient unless you are properly trained in what is considered as best practices.
“Maj-Gen Charl Annandale, (North West deputy police chief) Maj-Gen William Mpembe, Brigadier Adriaan Calitz, yourself (Mbombo), and Maj-Gen (Ganasen) Naidoo were the commanders of the police operation on August 16, 2012.
“None of you, except Maj-Gen Annandale, had been trained in POP after 1994... none of you had the occupational competency,” Le Roux said.
Mbombo said her counterparts had the requisite competence in crowd management.
“General Mpembe might not have had recent training, but in his work he is always involved in such operations. Brigadier Calitz has been working with POP ever since I knew him.”
The commission, chaired by retired judge Ian Farlam, is probing the deaths of 44 people at Marikana. On August 16, 2012, 34 people, mostly striking Lonmin miners, were shot dead and 78 people were wounded when police fired on a group gathered at a hill near the mine. In the preceding week, 10 people, including two policemen and two security guards, were killed in the strike-related violence.
President Jacob Zuma established the inquiry shortly after the shootings.