Top cop quizzed over Marikana

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iol news pic Judge Ian Farlam

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File image - Honourable Judge Ian Gordon Farlam during the public hearing of the Marikana Commission of Enquiry to investigate the Marikana tragedy at which 44 people were killed and scores injured. Picture: Dumisani Sibeko

Pretoria - North West provincial police chief Lt-Gen Zukiswa Mbombo was queried on Tuesday over her actions before the August 2012 shooting at Marikana, near Rustenburg.

Evidence leaders head Geoff Budlender, SC, cross-examined Mbombo at the Farlam Commission of Inquiry's public hearings in Pretoria.

He played a video recorded on August 16, 2012 where Mbombo told a media briefing: “We will ask them (protesters) to leave, but then I don't want to explain to you if they don't, what then. Today we are ending this matter”.

Budlender asked Mbombo why she had not qualified the conditions which would cause the police to step up their intervention.

Mbombo said she did not want “to explain the nitty-gritties of the police plan” to the media.

“It still depended on the people (police officers) that were going to put the operation into action. They would have decided whether the situation permitted,” she said.

Budlender reminded Mbombo that she was testifying under oath.

“You told the national commissioner, the meeting after the NMF 1/8national management forum 3/8, the world at large at your special media briefing, and also told the television interviewer that if the strikers did not hand their weapons over you would end the matter,” said Budlender.

Mbombo said she trusted her charges would take all considerations into account before moving in to disarm the protesters.

“They knew that they had to look at all angles. The operation was largely dependent on the people that were charged to carry it out,” said Mbombo.

She said she instructed that stage three of the police intervention plan be put into effect after being told that efforts by union leader Joseph Mathunjwa to negotiate with the strikers had failed.

“I was told that those people's negotiations had deadlocked and Mr Mathunjwa's intervention was unsuccessful. I was also told that the protesters' mood had changed,” said Mbombo.

Commission chairman retired judge Ian Farlam asked Mbombo how the police could have resolved that Mathunjwa's efforts were unsuccessful when he was still engaged in the negotiations.

“Mr Mathunjwa had not come back to you yet. You had told him that he was obliged to go to the koppie and convince the people to lay down their arms,” Farlam said.

“You had not received feedback from Mr Mathunjwa that he had been unsuccessful in convincing the people as you had told him that he was obliged to do. He didn't report to you that he was unable to convince the people.”

Mbombo said there was no arrangement that Mathunjwa would give feedback to her. Police officers had informed her that Mathunjwa had been unsuccessful in negotiating with protesters.

Moments later, 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 Lonmin's platinum mining operations in Marikana, while trying to disperse and disarm them.

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

The public hearings resume on Thursday.

Sapa


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