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Rustenburg - Teargas used by police against protesting Lonmin platinum mineworkers had no effect, the Farlam commission of inquiry heard on Thursday.
“On Monday 13 (August), teargas was fired at them; as you can see in the video, it had no effect, as they continued (to march),” Lt-Col Victor Visser told the inquiry in Rustenburg. He was outlining the events leading up to the August 16 shooting that left 34 protesters dead. “The group only started running when stun grenades were thrown at them.”
The commission, chaired by retired judge Ian Farlam, is holding public hearings, as part of its investigation into the shooting at Lonmin's platinum mine in Marikana, North West.
Visser said after stun grenades were used, protesters charged at police officers, overpowered two and hacked them to death. Members of police’s tactical response team chased the killers.
“The pursuing policemen were fired at by the protesters, using the weapons they had taken from the deceased officers. The group managed to escape.”
Video footage and photographs showing the bodies of the hacked officers were shown. The first policeman had deep cuts to his head and face. The second had a deep wound in the back of his head and gunshot wounds in his chest.
Visser said police officers in a helicopter witnessed the attack.
Another three people - two protesters and an unidentified man - were found dead on August 13 following the confrontation, said Visser.
In the video a senior policeman begs the protesters to hand over their weapons, hours before the confrontation. The group refuses and continues marching.
Visser said stun grenades and teargas were only used when the group headed into an informal settlement and the police wanted to avoid looting.
Earlier, Farlam said the commission would conduct its probe in two phases. The first would determine whether the police should be held criminally liable. The second would focus on the events from August 13 to 16.
Farlam said he was not sure whether his commission would be giving findings or recommendations at the conclusion of the first phase.
On Thursday, the commission admitted an attorney who would represent Police minister Nathi Mthethwa at the hearings.