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Cops fired at least 900 bullets at Marikana

16/08/2012 Some of the Lonmin striking mineworkers lie dead near Wonderkop informal settlement after they were shot by members police near Rustenburg. Picture: Phill Magakoe

16/08/2012 Some of the Lonmin striking mineworkers lie dead near Wonderkop informal settlement after they were shot by members police near Rustenburg. Picture: Phill Magakoe

Published Nov 1, 2012

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North West - The police had fired at least 900 bullets on the day 34 striking Lonmin employees were killed in Marikana in August.

This was stated on Wednesday at the Farlam Commission of Inquiry in Rustenburg by the police’s legal representative, advocate Ishmael Semenya.

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He said evidence at the commission would show that the police had fired “not less than” 400 live rounds and 500 rubber bullets between the scene at the kraal and the small hill on August 16.

 

Semenya was cross-examining police crime scene expert Captain Apollo Mohlaki, who attended to the second crime scene at the koppie, where more than 10 bodies were found.

The police captain said 61 spent bullet cases had been found among exhibits recovered at the koppie.

Earlier in his evidence, Mohlaki said a team of crime scene experts had been put on standby and told to wait to be called to process a crime scene about eight hours before the Marikana killings.

Mohlaki said he and four others had waited in a holding area less than 2km from the area where the massacre took place.

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Mohlaki told the inquiry that he had expected to go and take pictures of traditional weapons that would have been confiscated from the about 3 000 striking Lonmin miners on August 16.

“I was informed that an agreement had been reached that the people gathered at the koppie were going to disarm and withdraw, and then we’d be called in to document weapons [surrendered to the police],” he said.

Human rights lawyer advocate George Bizos, who represents the Legal Resources Centre and the Bench Marks Foundation, asked if Mohlaki had expected trouble.

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“I didn’t expect anything to go wrong when told they’ll give their traditional weapons to the police and withdraw,” Mohlaki said.

The crime scene expert was surprised when shown the scene with bullet-riddled bodies.

“I asked myself, what happened now?” Mohlaki said.

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He said he was told by a General Naidoo that “this is the crime scene”.

He was asked to move from the first scene at a kraal to the second, up at the koppie, where more men lay dead or injured.

Mohlaki said he had not been aware that there had been more shooting there.

He said he had found the police and paramedics milling around, with the injured demonstrators being attended to nearby and those arrested lying on the ground.

 

Police crime scene markings at the koppie were found defaced a few days after the killings.

Mohlaki had previously told the commission during the inspection in loco that he did not know who had defaced his bright-green alphabetical markings.

The commission chairman, retired Judge Ian Farlam, asked on Wednesday for the bodies to be identified by their names so they could be linked to their autopsy reports.

Mohlaki said traditional weapons, including axes, iron rods with sharp points, spears and knobkieries, were among the things found around the bodies at the koppie.

The crime scene expert said some bodies had been found between large rocks and added that rifle casings were also found in the area.

He said he had marked with an F a pistol loaded with 15 bullets.

Mohlaki said he had also recorded two other firearms that were not fully loaded that were found in possession of the arrested men.

Judge Farlam asked if pistol F had been used at all.

“Unless it has been reloaded, [then] it hasn’t been fired at all?” he asked.

“It’s possible; you can shoot and reload. I have, however, had them sent to ballistics people who were to ascertain [if those firearms had been used],” Mohlaki said.

In their opening statement, the police told the inquiry that they returned fire towards the koppie, from where they believed they were being shot at.

The pistol marked F was found between the bodies of Thabiso Mosebetsane and Mafolisi Mabiya.

 

Mohlaki said the body of one of those who had died, Nkosinathi Xalabile, was found on the edge of a large rock next to a tree.

He said a rifle cartridge was found lying about 3m from Xalabile’s body.

The commission adjourned until Monday.

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