Pretoria - Warning shots fired at Marikana did not give striking miners a chance to surrender to police, the Farlam Commission of Inquiry heard on Tuesday.
“A warning shot must give a person warned an opportunity to change their minds,” Anthony Gotz, for the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu), said while cross-examining Captain Samuel Kay Thupe at the commission's public hearings in Pretoria.
Thupe commanded a police tactical response team on August 16, 2012, when 34 people, mostly striking Lonmin mine workers, were shot dead in a confrontation with police in Marikana, near Rustenburg in the North West.
Thupe said warning shots were fired into the ground in an attempt to warn the miners not to approach the police.
After repeatedly viewing and analysing a video of the shooting, Gotz said the warning shots did not give the miners an opportunity to change their minds or surrender to police.
Thupe told the commission he did not fire any shots that day.
Gotz asked if Thupe did not consider it necessary to defend himself.
“When my team moved back I did too. If I had fired a shot I would have shot some members in the front line, so it was unnecessary to shoot.”
The commission is probing the deaths of 44 people during the violent Amcu-led strike led in August 2012. Ten people, including two policemen and two security guards, were killed in the week before the August 16 shooting.
A photograph of a group of miners approaching the police line was shown to the commission.
“This is the photograph of the lead group of the strikers just a minute before the they were shot at. The reason they covered their heads is because rubber bullets were fired at them,” Gotz said.
Thupe said this was correct.
Gotz said over 1000 rubber bullets were fired.
“Given the number of bullets fired, it is not surprising that the miners covered and bent their heads. They do not appear to be attacking the police,” he said.
Thupe replied: “Yes they covered their heads, but they were running towards the police.”