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Police at Marikana were ‘reckless and irresponsible’ – new report

2018-08-15 16:02

“There’s no evidence that any of the strikers shot at the police,” is what independent researcher David Bruce said on Wednesday at the release of a new report into the events that took place at Scene 2 of the Marikana massacre in August 2012.

Bruce, who penned the report – released by the Institute of Security Studies – titled The sound of gunfire: The police shootings at Marikana Scene 2, came to his findings through extensive research based on photographic evidence, interviews and forensic evidence.

Bruce said on Wednesday that the South African Police Services could not provide any evidence that the striking mine workers were attacking the police, as was previously claimed by the SAPS.

The position in which they were shot, the ballistics in evidence support the conclusion that they were killed in circumstances that they weren’t attacking members of the SAPS
Bruce said during his presentation

Until now there had been no conclusive analysis or evidence as to what really happened at Scene 2 because most of the coverage focused on the violence at Scene 1, about 500m away.

But this report has provided clarity on the day’s events, which took place on August 16 2012, when 34 striking mineworkers lost their lives – 17 at Scene 2.

A bird's-eye view of the area where miners were gunned down. Picture: Marikana Commission of Inquiry Exhibit

“At the very least, there is no convincing or persuasive evidence of any deliberate attacks on police at Scene 2. If there had been such attacks, there should be no reason why the police could not present consistent evidence of this. The SAPS has not been able to present consistent evidence that any of the four shootings at Scene 2 were in response to an attack,” the report says.

Bruce explained that it was more than likely that the police at Scene 2 had mistaken shots that were fired by other SAPS members for that of the striking miners, and in that moment, fired directly into Scene 2. The striking mineworkers had in essence, been caught in “crossfire”, but instead of the police firing at each other, they fired directly at the workers.

What happened at Scene 2 is that the gunfire was coming towards members of the SAPS, the overwhelming probabilities indicate that it is likely to be virtually exclusively from other members of the SAPS
David Bruce
Ballistic data from scene 2 at Marikana. Picture: Marikana Commission of Inquiry Exhibit

“It seems clear that the police at Scene 2 were acting in a way which was at the very least reckless and irresponsible, but it seems that it goes beyond that,” Bruce said, as he explained that the “punitive” and “vindictive” emotions of the police members were high, and played a powerful role in motivating their response by firing bullets into the crowd.

The Marikana commission of inquiry, which became known as the Farlam Commission because it was chaired by retired Judge Ian Farlam, investigated the massacre on the instructions of then president Jacob Zuma. It made several recommendations into the findings of the massacre. Some of those recommendations included inquiries into former national police commissioner Ria Phiyega’s fitness to hold office, and recommendations to the National Prosecuting Authority to investigate those who were found guilty of committing the massacre.

But Nomzamo Zondo, director of litigation at the Socio-Economic Rights Institute which represented the families of 36 striking mineworkers, said that justice still had not been served and was scathing in her criticism towards the police and the Farlam commission report, post-Marikana.

Scene 2 might happen again because there has been no prosecutions or accountability
Nomzamo Zondo, director of litigation at the Socio-Economic Rights Institute

“As we sit here today, the police officer who fired 25 R5 [rifle] rounds into Scene 2 is still in active service. As we sit here today, the SAPS has not disciplined any of the police officers who shot in Scene 2. The SAPS itself does not have an explanation for itself of what happened at Scene 2,” she said.

“We are here today with a SAPS that institutionally refuses to accept responsibility for Marikana,” Zondo said.


Avantika Seeth
Multimedia journalist
City Press
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September 23 2018