Lack of police video footage raises queries at Marikana inquiry
POLICE either failed to comply with their own rules, or have suppressed evidence that should have been made available before the Marikana commission, a lawyer said on Monday.
Advocate Dumisa Ntsebeza, for the families of the people who died in Marikana, started the proceedings with the cross-examination of Brig Zephania Mkhwanazi — an expert in public order policing.
President Jacob Zuma set up the commission in August to investigate the deadly mine strike, during which 44 people died, more than 70 people were injured, about 250 people were arrested, and damage was done to Lonmin’s Marikana mine property.
Mr Ntsebeza said his clients were interested in establishing what happened on August 16 last year when police shot and killed 34 striking workers at Lonmin’s platinum mine in Marikana.
According to police standards, a review of the action taken on the crime scene must always be conducted by an officer who was not part of the action. Video footage of the events was among the materials required for this process to be conducted.
However, the commission heard last year that there was no footage captured by the police at the time when 34 mine workers were shot dead.
"Up to now, there has been a disturbing absence of evidence that speaks to what happened on that day," said Mr Ntsebeza. "We have not been able to get from the police, footage of what happened when that first volley of bullets was unleashed".
Mr Ntsebeza told Brig Mkhwanazi that being under oath meant that he had a duty to fully disclose everything he knew.
"It means you have to make full disclosure of things that are privy to you that have not been revealed in the commission."
Mr Ntsebeza urged Brig Mkhwanazi to disclose "the truth" on the absence of the video footage, even if it was uncomfortable or prejudicial to him or the police. He suggested that it was possible the video "evidence existed and has been suppressed, or it existed but was destroyed or deleted".
Mr Ntsebeza said: "What I seek to convey to you and to seek your concession on is that when you are under oath you carry a heavier responsibility than what you and your colleagues may decide should be the approach before the commission".
Asked whether he had requested to see video footage of police operations in Marikana, Brig Mkhwanazi said he did not think it was necessary.
Mr Ntsebeza said it was disturbing that there seemed to be no internal review of the events of August 16.
Brig Mkhwanazi had previously been asked by evidence leader Geoff Budlender whether, at a police retreat in Potchefstroom — in preparation for the commission — there had been discussions about what the police could have done better. Brig Mkhwanazi said to his knowledge this did not happen. He explained that it was the police’s view that it was the commission’s duty to make recommendations at the end of the hearings.
Brig Mkhwanazi agreed there were a number of alternative options available to the police to disarm the strikers — lower risk options than confronting more than 3,500 strikers the way they did.
Mr Ntsebeza said on Monday Brig Mkhwanazi would have been the obvious person to be involved in this kind of internal review. He was a high-ranking officer, he was not part of the action, or on the scene, as stipulated in the injunction for an internal review process.
Brig Mkhwanazi disagreed, saying he would only conduct a review if instructed by a higher office. "If we review we will have to give recommendations. It would not be correct to (do) that when the commission had already been appointed," said Brig Mkhwanazi.
Brig Mkhwanazi committed to disclosing what he knew. "There is nothing I’m hiding at all," he said. The commission continues.
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