Judge Ian Farlam. File photo: Oupa Mokoena

Pretoria - Police officers deployed at Marikana had severe grievances regarding the control of the operation, Lt-Col Joseph Merafe told the Farlam Commission of Inquiry on Monday.

“The members were not happy because Maj-Gen William Mpembe had taken over the control of the operation on August 13, 2012. It is true,” Merafe told the inquiry's public hearings in Pretoria.

“The members' dissatisfaction was that if the operation had not been taken away from me, there would not have been the eventualities that happened there.”

Merafe is North West provincial commander of the public order police unit.

Mpembe is the provincial deputy police commissioner and was also overall commander of the Marikana operation.

Two police officers - Warrant Officers Sello Leepaku and Tsietsi Monene - were hacked to death on August 13, 2012 in a confrontation between the protesting miners and police near a railway line at Marikana. Three miners were also killed in the clash.

Three days later, on August 16, 34 people, mostly striking miners, were shot dead and 78 people were wounded when police fired on a group gathered at a hill near the mine while allegedly trying to disarm and disperse them.

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

The commission led by retired judge Ian Farlam was established by President Jacob Zuma to probe the 44 deaths.

Last month, North West air wing commander Lt-Col Salmon Vermaak told the inquiry that Mpembe was overcome by emotion and lost control after the two policemen were killed.

“To me it was clear that at that stage that he 1/8Mpembe 3/8 had actually lost control over the members. All the members were just standing around and there was no definite person who was in control of the group.”

“He ran to me and said his policemen had been killed. I tried to calm him down,” said Vermaak.

“He was totally in a shocked state. He was running between the members saying 'my policemen have been killed, my policemen have been killed,' said Vermaak.

Vermaak said he later removed Mpembe from the scene because of a death threat. Officers were allegedly threatening to kill Mpembe to avenge the death of their two colleagues.

On Monday, Merafe said he did not hear any threats and he did not make any threats against Mpembe.

“I only heard the matter, (after the Marikana operation), when General Mpembe was questioning Vermaak,” said Merafe.

He said Mpembe said if Vermaak did not disclose the person who threatened to kill him on August 13, 2012, the deputy commissioner would lay a charge of intimidation against Vermaak.

Vermaak said to General Mpembe “look at the man next to you”, implying that the person who had threatened to kill the General was him (Merafe).

Merafe said he told Mpembe that the allegations by Vermaak were untrue.

The public hearings continue. - Sapa