Nomzamo Zondo director of litigation at Socio-Economic Rights Institute of South Africa (SERI), Judge Ian Farlam and the ISS’s justice and violence prevention head Gareth Newham. Picture: Sakhile Ndlazi

Pretoria - Police commanders who authorised the 2012 killing of striking miners at Marikana should be a priority for prosecution by the incoming head of the National Prosecution Authority (NPA), the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) said.

This was the general consensus by independent David Bruce, lawyer Nomzamo Zondo, Judge Ian Farlam and the ISS justice and violence prevention head Gareth Newham. This comes on the eve of the fateful massacre. 

Newham said The SA Police Service (SAPS) can only rid itself of Marikana’s deadly legacy by taking responsibility for the unnecessary killings, with commanders and those who pulled the trigger being held accountable. 

“This will signal a clear break by SAPS from its troubled past. It will improve public trust in the police at a time when the risk of volatile protests is high as the 2019 elections approach and politicians turn up the rhetoric on land reform,” said Newham. 

He said new police minister Bheki Cele and SAPS commissioner Khehla Sitole, under President Cyril Ramaphosa, have the opportunity to rebuild public trust in the SAPS by making much-needed reforms in the interests of public safety, Newham told a seminar at the ISS.

On 16 August 2012 police shot dead 34 striking mineworkers at Marikana platinum mine in the North West Province, the bloody culmination of a violent ten days that left 44 dead and 94 injured.

The mineworkers were on an unprotected strike demanding better wages and working conditions. It was the worst police killing in South Africa since the end of apartheid and a complete failure of responsible policing in a democratic society.

The ISS on Wednesday released the most comprehensive account to date of the police killings at what is known as Marikana Scene 2, where 57 police officers from four units fired 295 bullets at mineworkers.

The chilling details are revealed in a new report by independent researcher David Bruce, based on photographs, statements from police and surviving miners, and ballistic and forensic evidence.

Bruce finds some police officers thought they were under fire from the miners when it was in fact bullets from their colleagues approaching from the other side of the area. 

This is evidence of what the Marikana Commission called a "chaotic free for all". The commission rejected the police's version of events as it did not accord with the evidence.

Pretoria News