Marikana questioning damaging: SAPS

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IOL  marikana rubber bullets REUTERS File image - A police officer fires shots to disperse miners at Lonmin's Marikana.

Johannesburg - Suggestions that police possibly suppressed or destroyed evidence of the Marikana shootings were harmful to its case, the Farlam Commission of Inquiry heard in Rustenburg on Monday.

“It was totally unfair to put these types of propositions to the witness. It is damaging to the case the SA Police Service is making,” Ishmael Semenya, for the police, said.

This came after Dumisa Ntsebeza, for the families of the 34 slain striking miners, quizzed public order policing expert Brigadier Zephania Mkhwanazi about video footage and reviews on the shooting.

Semenya said police handed over all evidence.

Ntsebeza said he was probing the possibility that evidence had been destroyed.

Earlier on Monday, the commission heard from Ntsebeza that there had been a disturbing absence of evidence on shootings.

“It may well be that the evidence existed, but was destroyed or deleted. I'm not saying by you.”

Mkhwanazi said he understood the questioning and would be forthcoming with information.

“What I know I will definitely disclose.”

Ntsebeza said it was disturbing that there was no footage of police behaviour and no review of what had happened by police, despite a nine-day meeting in Potchefstroom after the shooting.

“Are you saying under oath that you were never part of a review?” he asked Mkhwanazi.

“Councillor, I will say again. No, we never had a separate meeting for the purpose of reviewing.”

He was questioned on what video footage of the shootings he saw prior to the inquiry.

“The one I saw was from the media. I was informed there were some from the police, but I never saw that.”

Ntsebeza repeatedly questioned Mkhwanazi on where he heard about the police footage and why he had not insisted on seeing it.

He said he heard about it in general discussions and from a camera operator.

“I was shown what I was shown, but I never asked specifically where is that material.”

Ntsebeza said Mkhwanazi showed a remarkable reluctance to know what was contained in the footage.

“It's not the case that I never took it seriously. I had the belief that all video footage would become available.”

He admitted he did not ask what the footage contained, but maintained he believed it would be included in the inquiry.

Ntsebeza completed his questioning by putting it to Mkhwanazi that the operation should have been under public order police control.

“The place should have been saturated (with public order police).”

He said resources such as intelligence were not used sufficiently, adding that the operation plan seemed to be premised on protecting police. He used images of police negotiating from within armoured Nyala vehicles as example.

“The plan was to put an ultimatum down and to deal with the ultimatum.”

Mkhwanazi responded by saying: “To say this was right or wrong is difficult for me as I was not there.”

The day finished with Nokukhanya Jele, for the Human Rights Commission, starting her cross-examination of Mkhwanazi.

The inquiry into the deaths of 44 people during an unprotected strike at Lonmin's Marikana mine in August resumed at the Rustenburg Civic Centre on Monday.

It is chaired by retired judge Ian Farlam. The other commissioners are senior advocates Bantubonke Tokota and Pingla Hemraj.

Thirty-four striking miners were shot dead on August 16, 2012 and 78 wounded when police opened fire while trying to disperse a group gathered on a hill near Lonmin's platinum mine.

In the preceding week, 10 people, including two police officers and two security guards, were hacked to death near the mine.

President Jacob Zuma announced the commission in August.

The inquiry continues on Tuesday. - Sapa


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