ATTENTION EDITORS - VISUAL COVERAGE OF SCENES OF DEATH AND INJURY A policeman gestures in front of some of the dead miners after they were shot outside a South African mine in Rustenburg, 100 km (62 miles) northwest of Johannesburg, August 16, 2012. South African police opened fire on Thursday against thousands of striking miners armed with machetes and sticks at Lonmin's Marikana platinum mine, leaving several bloodied corpses lying on the ground. A Reuters cameraman said he saw at least seven bodies after the shooting, which occurred when police laying out barricades of barbed wire were outflanked by some of an estimated 3,000 miners massed on a rocky outcrop near the mine, 100 km (60 miles) northwest of Johannesburg. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko (SOUTH AFRICA - Tags: CIVIL UNREST CRIME LAW TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY) TEMPLATE OUT

Pretoria - Counsel for Marikana miners wounded and arrested in August 2012 got the opportunity on Thursday to question a police officer who fired shots during the strike-related unrest.

Dali Mpofu, SC, cross-examined North West deputy provincial commissioner Maj-Gen Ganasen Naidoo at the public hearings of the Farlam Commission of Inquiry.

“The importance of your evidence in the context of this commission is that you are the first shooter we are interacting with. I will not traverse on areas that have been covered already (by other lawyers),” Mpofu said as he began his examination after midday.

“This (Marikana) operation was one of the biggest in your career and in your life? This operation had the largest number of fatalities in your career.”

Naidoo agreed. He said even though Marikana was not the biggest event he had been involved in, it was exceptional due to the resultant fatalities.

Mpofu went on: “Would it be fair to say on a personal level, this (operation) was a life changing experience for you. You are no longer the same person you were before Marikana?”

Naidoo agreed.

Mpofu asked Naidoo to explain if he had ever killed a person in any police operation before the 2012 events.

The policeman responded: “Never.”

Naidoo was one of the lead police commanders during the intervention to control a violent strike-related protest.

The commission led by retired judge Ian Farlam is probing the deaths of 44 people at Lonmin's platinum mining operations in Marikana, near Rustenburg, North West.

On August 16, 2012, 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 trying to disarm and disperse them.

In the preceding week, 10 people, including two policemen and two security guards, were killed in the strike-related violence. President Jacob Zuma established the inquiry shortly after the shootings.

Sapa