Top cop admits to Marikana failure

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Geoff Budlender jan 17 INLSA Farlam Commission of Inquiry evidence leader Geoff Budlender SC. Photo: Dumisani Sibeko

Pretoria - North West police chief Lt-Gen Zukiswa Mbombo conceded on Thursday that police intervention in a mine strike at Marikana, North West, was a failure.

She was cross-examined by evidence leader Geoff Budlender, SC, at the Farlam Commission of Inquiry's public hearings in Pretoria.

“An unexpected tragedy happened in that operation and 34 people were killed, 78 people were seriously injured. That was never the intention and wish of the police,” she said.

“As our standing orders say, we measure the failure or success of an operation by its result. What happened there was sad.”

Budlender asked: “By those measures, the operation was a failure?”

Mbombo agreed.

She said there were blunders in the police communication systems used on August 16, 2012.

“Our biggest challenge was the communication problem and the issue that we also seriously injured people. Our people could not take enough photos of the scene,” said Mbombo.

“In that (Marikana) operation, I have noticed we had serious problems with our command and control. There could be many causes for that but it was a problem.”

She explained that if “police command and control” had gone according to the book, maybe the miners would not have been killed.

Earlier, Mbombo was quizzed by Budlender regarding the formulation of the six-stage Marikana intervention plan.

Budlender asked Mbombo to explain why the Special Task Force's Lt-Col Duncan Scott was given charge to draw up the intervention plan when he did not have experience in public order policing.

Mbombo said Scott was not in charge of the drafting.

“I do not know that he was in charge. All I know is that he was writing it down since he is someone who is an experienced person in using computers.”

The police strategy at the turbulent mines became known as “the Scott plan”.

The commission, led by retired judge Ian Farlam, is probing the deaths of 44 people in Marikana.

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. They were trying to disperse and disarm them.

In the preceding week, 10 people, including the two policemen and the two security guards, were killed in strike-related violence.

The public hearings will resume on Monday.

Sapa



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