Top cop 'only heard of Marikana killings later'

South Africa
File: Commission chairman Ian Farlam is seen at the Marikana judicial inquiry of the shooting at the Lonmin platinum mine in Rustenburg. Picture: SAPA / Werner Beukes

RUSTENBURG - It was strange for police commander Maj-Gen Charl Annandale to claim he only heard of a second Marikana shooting 40 minutes after it occurred, the Farlam Commission heard on Tuesday.

Dumisa Ntsebeza, for the families of the dead miners, said this was an "extraordinary proposition".

Commission chairman retired judge Ian Farlam said Annandale's submission did appear strange.

Annandale headed the police's tactical response team during the wage-related unrest and violence at Lonmin's platinum mine in Marikana last year.

In his response, Annandale said: "I gave evidence that at the time, I only knew of one operation and one scene. It was only later that I found out about the second scene," he said.

Police shot dead 16 striking miners near Lonmin mine in Marikana on August 16 last year. Another 18 were shot dead minutes later at a second area at a nearby hillock, known as Wonderkop.

Annandale said on Tuesday: "I also explained the difficulties we had with the analogue radio system and the single radio channel we used. The channel was mostly occupied by Papa one and Charlie one (police codes).

"Their reports weren't very clear until 4.30pm."

Ntsebeza said Annandale's version was improbable and implausible.

He said when Annandale delivered his evidence-in-chief, he told the commission that the radio was audible to everyone present at the joint operations centre, where he had been positioned during the shootings.

Ntsebeza said the recording in the police's occurrence book showed at 3.55pm Papa one announced through the radio that the group of protesters was moving towards the police.

Annandale said he had told the commission before that the entries in the occurrence book were not accurate in terms of the time and content.

Ntsebeza argued that a statement by another police officer, Lt-Col Duncan Scott, matched the contents of the occurrence book.

Farlam agreed that Annandale's explanation was possibly correct.

"We have to accept that there are problems with the occurrence book and it looks like some of the occurrences were entered later," said Farlam.

Annandale said though he stated in his statement that he had heard of bodies lying on the ground at the scene of the shootings, he did not think those people were dead.

"The people who would be lying on the ground could have been people injured during the dispersal. They could have fallen or been injured but we [the people at the joint operations centre] did not think they were dead," said Annandale.

Earlier, the commission reviewed the statement of Brigadier Zephaniah Mkhwanazi, who testified several months ago.

Mkhwanazi, who is a public order policing (Pop) expert, was called to give evidence at the commission due to his expertise. He played no part in the Marikana unrest.

During his testimony, Mkhwanazi said that it would have been best if a Pop-trained negotiator had been brought in to negotiate with striking mineworkers.

Annandale rejected Mkhwanazi's claims.

He said there was no such thing as a Pop-trained negotiator.

"There's nothing called a Pop negotiator. They all undergo one training under the SA Police Service," said Annandale.

"The only accredited negotiating course I know of is the hostage and suicide negotiating [course]," he said.

Criticisms were also raised as to why the police negotiators conducted negotiations from behind the police nyalas.

Ntsebeza said Mkhwanazi said the negotiators should have tried to gain the trust of the strikers and properly address them.

Mkhwanazi said another thing that could have been done was to "drench" the area with public order police.

Annandale said this was not possible as police had to attend to other public unrests.

"We couldn't deploy all the country's Pop to one province."

The commission is investigating the deaths of 44 people during the wage-related unrest in Marikana last year.

Police shot dead 34 striking mineworkers in Marikana on August 16. Ten people, including two police officers, were killed in the preceding week.

-Sapa

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