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Pretoria - Striking Marikana miners were acting as a single well-organised group in the days leading up to their confrontation with police, the Farlam Commission of Inquiry heard on Thursday.
“When a group of three or four hundred of them had to go around a kraal, Mr Noki (protest leader) said to all of them they did not have to flee. The surprising element is that they all agreed to go in the direction he was leading them,” said Ishmael Semenya SC, representing police.
“The argument on our part will be that they were acting as a single concerted group under command and instruction, bent on a very murderous route.”
Semenya was cross-examining international public order policing expert Gary White.
The former chief superintendent of Northern Ireland's police service had been critical of the SA Police Service's handling of the Marikana unrest.
Semenya read out what he called grisly details of how the miners gored a security guard and took some of his parts as described by witness “Mr X”.
“He says, 'I stabbed one of the security officials with a knife somewhere on the face. Anele (a protester) took the security guard's firearm and cellphone. Bhele then cut off the chin and tongue of the guard and put them in a plastic.'
“It's a very grisly description of brutality on another human being. It is not what you typically find in a public disorder environment. Killings happen but this is something else,” said Semenya.
White said the description of how the security guard was killed was deplorable.
“It's shocking. I have never come across this type of thing in my experience. I have come across situations where people were killed but in terms of the ritual aspect, I haven't come across it,” said White.
He conceded that an impression of mutual intent could be observed from the crowd of protesters.
Semenya said the miners were under instructions to provoke the police so that their muti would work. He said such intelligence was not available to police.
“Given that there was no history where the use of a stun grenade triggered a direct attack on police, they 1/8officers 3/8 couldn't be expected to have anticipated an attack on August 13, 2012,” Semenya said.
White said the general premise was that police actions always triggered a reciprocal response from a crowd during public order policing operations.
“My evidence has always been that police actions always create a reaction by the crowd. In the UK, the reaction to a stun grenade may be that people run away,” he said.
“If the situation where stun grenades are fired has never resulted in an attack on the police then as a planning assumption it would be a reasonable planning assumption. The person making that assumption would be knowing that this has never happened before. In a general sense, police action creates a reaction.”
Semenya said the standard action of protesters after police used stun grenades was to flee.
“The group of 3000-odd people disappeared from the koppie when the police started putting up barbed wire. That is predictable behaviour, the majority of people flee when they see police action being escalated.”
In his statements to the inquiry, White has criticised the implementation of the SAPS intervention plan drawn up by Lt-Col Duncan Scott.
White had been requested by the SA Human Rights Commission to give professional analysis of the Marikana shootings.
Last year, the SAHRC's Michelle le Roux said White's criticism related to planning, leadership, and the execution of the operation, which had been described as haphazard, rushed, negligent, and inadequate.
The inquiry, chaired by retired judge Ian Farlam, is investigating the deaths of 44 people during strike-related violence at Lonmin's platinum mining operations at Marikana, near Rustenburg in the North West.
Thirty-four people, mostly striking mineworkers, were shot dead in a clash with police, over 70 were wounded, and another 250
arrested on August 16, 2012. Police were apparently trying to disarm and disperse them.
In the preceding week, 10 people, including two policemen and two security guards, were killed.
White continues on the stand on Friday.