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Pretoria - North West deputy police commissioner William Mpembe did not think striking mineworkers at Marikana posed a threat to him and other police officers when they confronted them on August 13, 2012, the Farlam Commission of Inquiry heard on Tuesday.
This was despite allegations that a group of mineworkers were responsible for the deaths of two security guards killed at Lonmin's platinum mining operations at Marikana, near Rustenburg in the North West the previous day.
The guards were set alight in their vehicle.
“I did not know who the destabilisers were,” said Mpembe, who was the overall commander of the police operation.
Mpembe and the officers confronted the armed miners near a railway line and requested that they leave their weapons.
The miners refused, saying they would disarm once they reached the hill where other miners had gathered.
Police escorted the miners to the hill but when an officer fired teargas in their direction, the miners turned on police.
Two police officers were killed and another was injured during the attack.
Louis Gumbi, for the family of slain officer Sello Leepaku, and for Lieutenant Shitumo Solomon Baloyi who was stabbed, questioned why Mpembe had not done a threat analysis prior to confronting the miners.
“Before you approached the miners, you had the employer's (Lonmin) and the police's view on how miners had behaved previously... You had also seen video evidence,” said Gumbi.
“You had enough information to know that you were not dealing with ordinary strikers but people who had rituals performed on them, and who had killed two security guards the day before,” said Gumbi.
In earlier proceedings, it was revealed that a sangoma had performed rituals on some of the miners. The ritual made miners believe they were invincible.
Mpembe said: “It did not come to my attention that this was the same group (who could have killed the security guards).”
The commission, which is sitting in Pretoria, is investigating the deaths of 44 people killed during strike-related unrest in Marikana last year.
Thirty-four people - almost all striking mineworkers - were killed on August 16, 2012, when police fired on them while trying to disperse and disarm them. Ten people, including two police officers and two security guards, were killed in the preceding week.