Pretoria - Some South Africans now view the SA Police Service (SAPS)as a “killing machine”, the Farlam Commission of Inquiry heard on Wednesday.
Dali Mpofu SC, representing wounded and arrested Marikana miners at the inquiry, put it to the police operational commander during the intervention at Marikana in August 2012, that such a perception by citizens was worrying.
While cross-examining Brigadier Adriaan Calitz, Mpofu read out an opinion piece in the Sowetan on Wednesday titled “Is SA becoming a killing state?”, written by columnist Mpumelelo Mkhabela.
“I think you are also aware that the outcomes of this commission are very important for the image of the police and their ability to maintain law and order,” said Mpofu.
“There is a view out there that the police are just a killing machine, which needs either to be confirmed or corrected. Do you agree with me?”
Calitz said such a perception was the view of the media. Regarding the opinions of South Africans in general, he said “it was 50/50”.
“I cannot say that I agree with you, but that is a view of the media. It is what is reported by the media, and there are many times I was misquoted by the Sowetan,” he said.
“The commission is still ongoing and people must accept that they will get the truth (about what happened at Marikana). The correct messages must be carried out to the public.”
Mpofu sought to ascertain who held the discretion to undertake an operation similar to the Marikana intervention, which left 34
dead in August 2012.
Calitz responded: “A constable or anyone in an operation, if something happens before him, he has the right to use his weapon to kill a person if it is within his discretion. He will not wait to report to his commander.
“It is not that a constable has lesser discretion than a person at a senior level.”
On Tuesday, Calitz testified that the shooting of the striking mineworkers was not revenge for the earlier killing of two police officers in Marikana.
“In my experience, I have handled many cases and incidents. It was never the position of the police to take revenge. We are well trained by our commanders,” Calitz said.
“I was trained in public policing. Revenge could not have been an option.”
Warrant Officers Sello Lepaku and Tsietsi Monene were shot and hacked to death on August 13, 2012, allegedly by protesting miners. Lieutenant Shitumo Solomon Baloyi was stabbed.
The three-member commission of inquiry, chaired by retired judge Ian Farlam, is probing the circumstances surrounding the deaths of 44 people during the 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 the two policemen and two security guards, were killed.