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Fri Oct 24 11:35:32 SAST 2014

Police used 'appropriate' force in Marikana

AMUKELANI CHAUKE | 14 December, 2012 00:02
POLICE PRO: Malibongwe Hanabe, left, translates the testimony of Brigadier Zephania Mkhwanazi, an expert on public-order policing, yesterday. It was Mkhwanazi's second day giving evidence to the Marikana commission of inquiry in Rustenburg, North West
Image by: MOELETSI MABE

A POLICE expert yesterday defended the actions that led to the deaths of 34 Marikana miners.

Zephania Mkhwanazi, an expert in public-order policing, told the Marikana commission of inquiry that the force used by police was "appropriate".

Mkhwanazi said police acted correctly when they carried out an operational plan to disperse about 3000 striking rock drill operators from a koppie on August 16.

The inquiry is probing the roles of police, trade unions, mineworkers and the Lonmin mine in conflict that left 44 people dead.

According to the police's operational plan, they must negotiate with protesters before taking action. If that fails, the public order police unit will use teargas, stun grenades and water cannons to disperse the crowd.

Three other units - the tactical response team, the national intervention unit and the special task force - were on standby had they been needed at Marikana.

Mkhwanazi defended police actions starting from when they used non-lethal methods - teargas and rubber bullets - to their use of live rounds to shoot miners, killing 34.

"I'd say [police] members have acted in a proper way, proportionate to the situation," he said.

Mkhwanazi did not participate in any police operations at Marikana at the time.

Advocate Ishmael Semenya, representing the police at the commission, argued earlier that police had acted lawfully when they deployed the tactical response and national intervention units as well as the militarised special task force. The intervention unit deals with dangerous hostage situations.

The public order police used teargas, stun grenades, rubber bullets and water cannons. Semenya said these were not effective.

The tactical response team then moved to the front line. The public order police unit fired live rounds for eight seconds, which left about 16 miners dead at a kraal near the koppie where they had gathered.

The special task force was called in to assist at the second koppie, at which 18 other miners were killed. A total of 259 miners were arrested.

Throughout his testimony, Mkhwanazi was adamant that police was not at fault.

But when advocate Geoff Budlender, one of the commission's evidence leaders, asked if the operation had failed, Mkhwanazi was at first reluctant to concede it had.

Eventually he agreed the operation had failed, given the number of lives lost on the day.

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