Pretoria - The intentions of protesting Lonmin miners as they left a hill at Marikana on August 16, 2012, were under the spotlight at the Farlam Commission of Inquiry hearing on Thursday.
Dali Mpofu SC, representing wounded and arrested Marikana miners at the inquiry, put it to Brigadier Adriaan Calitz that the protesters were not looking for trouble.
They were simply going to the Nkaneng informal settlement when they were attacked by police, he said in Pretoria.
“As far as using the path (to Nkaneng) is concerned, the only difference between the first group and the other group behind them, is that those who came first managed to go through, while those who followed were blocked,” said Mpofu.
Calitz said the protesters who were peaceful were permitted to go through, and that the “militant groups” were intercepted by the police.
“The peaceful groups moved, and the militant groups remained behind (at the hill). It is not as if it was a coincidence that they (peaceful protesters) went past,” said Calitz.
Mpofu said members of the militant group were not able to proceed to the informal settlement, because the path was blocked by a Nyala police vehicle.
Calitz disagreed: “That is not correct. They did not proceed because they chose to carry out an attack (on police officers).”
Mpofu said that if the militant group had been allowed to proceed, if its members had “murderous intent, they would have met with POP (public order policing) people and not the R5-wielding TRT (tactical response team)”.
Ishmael Semenya, for the police, intervened, and said answers from Mpofu’s line of questions about the movement of the protesters would not assist the commission.
The three member commission's chairman, retired judge Ian Farlam, said Mpofu was asking Calitz to speculate.
“The point is that you are asking someone who was there (at Marikana), in one of the Nyalas, you are asking him to speculate,” said Farlam.
The question was whether Calitz was in a position to give opinions which could take matters forward.
“Whether your clients were, in fact, intent on doing that (proceeding to Nkaneng) is a matter which we will have to decide,” said Farlam.
“What is clear, is that they were prevented from going through by Nyala four. What they were prevented from doing thereafter is the subject of debate, which it seems is not going to be clarified during this cross-examination.”
Calitz was the operational police commander during a protracted strike at Marikana, near Rustenburg.
The commission of inquiry is probing the circumstances surrounding the deaths of 44 people during labour-related unrest at Lonmin's platinum mining operations at Marikana, near Rustenburg, North West.
On August 16, 2012, 34 people, mostly striking miners, were shot dead and 78 people were wounded when the police fired on a group gathered at a hill near the mine while attempting to disperse and disarm them.
In the preceding week, 10 people, including two policemen and two security guards, were killed in unrest-related violence.