'Mpembe lost control of Marikana officers'Comment on this story
Pretoria - North West deputy provincial police chief William Mpembe was overcome by emotion and lost control after two policemen were killed at Marikana on August 13, 2012, the Farlam Commission of Inquiry heard on Monday.
“He arrived at the scene [where officers had been hacked to heath], he was in a state of shock,”Lt-Col Salmon Vermaak told the public hearings in Pretoria.
He explained Mpembe's reaction after the two officers were killed following a confrontation with protesting Lonmin miners.
“To me it was clear that at that stage that he [Mpembe] had actually lost control over the members. All the members were just standing around and there was no definite person who was in control of the group.”
“He ran to me and said his policemen had been killed. I tried to calm him down,” said Vermaak.
“He was totally in a shocked state. He was running between the members saying 'my policemen have been killed, my policemen have been killed',” said Vermaak.
Vermaak said he later removed Mpembe from the scene because of a death threat. Officers were threatening to kill Mpembe to avenge the death of their two colleagues.
Three days later, on August 16, 2012, police shot and killed 34, mostly protesting miners, at Lonmin's platinum mining operations at Marikana, near Rustenburg in North West.
At least 78 miners were also wounded when police fired on the group gathered at a hill near the mine while trying to disarm and disperse them.
In the preceding week, 10 people, including two policemen and two security guards, were killed in the strike-related violence.
The commission led by retired judge Ian Farlam is probing the 44 deaths.
Unlike all other police officers who have testified at the inquiry, Vermaak is being led in giving his testimony by evidence leaders.
Other police officers have been led by SA Police Service lawyers at the commission.
Vermaak will be cross-examined by the police lawyers.
In January, evidence submitted to the inquiry showed that Vermaak lashed out, criticising the police's handling of the Marikana strike.
Vermaak wrote a memo to provincial commissioner Zukiswa Mbombo outlining numerous flaws in the police intervention management of the strike.
The correspondence titled “Unrest: Marikana and Rustenburg: 2012”, was also copied to North West provincial head of operational response services.
On the Marikana intervention, Vermaak made a long list of “shortcomings” by the police.
“Senior officers do planning without any experience in serious incidents and this causes that [the SAPS] afterwards [must] explain their actions.
“Marikana is a very good example where senior management was warned before specific actions [were] taken but they did not give attention to the advice.
“This type of ignorance put the national and provincial commissioners in a very difficult situation. Officers and members do planning without knowledge of the Gatherings Act,” wrote Vermaak.
He questioned the training of the police officers who were deployed to manage the crowds of protesting miners.
“Members are not properly trained at training institutions, some of the instructors were never exposed to any of the incidents which he must lecture. There is a big difference between book knowledge and experience on the ground,” wrote Vermaak.
He said members of the public order policing unit (POP) used to be issued with video equipment and adequately trained in the use thereof, so as to have credible evidence when required.
“POP doesn't have this capacity anymore. Some of the video footage that was taken during Marikana incidents did not have any value. I never saw a commander anymore with a voice recorder when he negotiates with [protest] leaders, for reference purposes afterwards.”
Vermaak also questioned the police officers' capabilities to operate State equipment, particularly vehicles.
“Members with code EC (10) were given the Nyala keys during this period [Marikana unrest] and had never had any training to operate a Nyala and that causes a lot of expenditure that was not budgeted for.
“The availability of information [intelligence] before incidents does not exist anymore. In the past, there was an information office at each unit and they managed their own informers, some were attending courses to handle the informers,” wrote Vermaak.
On Monday, some of the miners' widows were dressed in branded in ed Economic Freedom Fighters T-shirts.