The South African police have apparently been doctoring information that it has presented to the Farlam Commission of Inquiry into the deaths of 44 people – including 34 miners killed by police at a massacre on August 16 2012– during a strike at Lonmin’s Marikana mine last year.
The Con has confirmed with sources intimate with the commission that the new evidence included confirmation that a police video presented at the commission had been “spliced” together to, according to one source, “make it seem as if the miners had been encouraged to kill the police”. Due to these revelations that followed the retrieval of new police documents this week, the commission announced a postponement until September 25.
According to commission spokesperson, Tshepo Mahlangu, evidence leaders had uncovered a litany of acts by the police that included withholding evidence from the commission, denying the existence of documents that did in fact exist and presenting documents that had actually been compiled after the events of August last year.
In a statement released on Thursday, Mahlangu said that the commission’s evidence leaders had secured new information including “documents which the SAPS [South African Police Service] previously said were not in existence”, documents which in the commission’s opinion “ought to have been previously disclosed by the SAPS, but were not so disclosed” and documents that “appear” to have been “constructed” after the events to which they refer.
The last, according to sources who spoke to The Con, relates to a power point presentation that the police presented to the commission as evidence of their plans to deal with the striking miners on August 16. The Con understands that this presentation was in fact created by police at a meeting weeks after the massacre on August 16 2012.
Damningly, Mahlangu, stated that evidence leaders have also “obtained documents which in our opinion demonstrate that the SAPS version of the events at Marikana, as described in the SAPS presentation to this Commission and in the evidence of SAPS witnesses at this Commission, is in material respects not the truth”.
According to a source who spoke to The Con, this relates to police video footage purportedly taken on August 13, three days before the massacre, when miners are allegedly shown agreeing to attack police. The source said sections of the video had been spliced together to give the impression that the miners were “muthi-driven savages intent on killing the police – which has been exposed as a lie”.
“The police have been on a quite open propaganda exercise for the entirety of the commission – especially in how they present the threat to themselves by the miners. This new information blows all of this out the water and really underlines the bad faith in which police have been acting at the commission,” said the source.
Speaking to The Con, Mahlangu was not able to comment further on the allegation that the power-point police plan was in fact the document referred to in his statement as being “contemporaneously” created but did confirm that “some of the sequences in the video footage” presented by police to the commission “might have been put together”.
Stating that the police were to be given the opportunity by the commission to furnish responses to the latest developments, Mahlangu told The Con it was, however, “startling” that they had not volunteered some of the latest information as it had been previously requested by the commission’s evidence leaders.
He added that the evidence had come to light during the cross examination of police colonel Duncan Scott, who had offered up his computer and hard-drive for inspection during recent testimony: “Upon closer inspection we found so much information that had not previously been disclosed,” said Mahlangu.
Mahlangu confirmed that experts were currently retrieving and verifying more information from police computers.
These revelations raises further questions about the political will – and moral decency – of the South African government and its police force to allow the truth to emerge at the Farlam Commission.
According to sources at the commission, the latest development may also be reflective of a more proactive attitude by the commission that has been increasingly mindful of the criticism it has attracted for its protracted length. Initially set up to last four months, it has dragged on for over a year resulting in civil claims against police by families of the victims and those arrested and allegedly tortured by police to stall. Its length has also meant that funding for legal counsel representing the arrested miners had dried up resulting in unsuccessful court applications for government to pay their fees and their subsequent withdrawal from the commission.
Main Photograph: Family members and colleagues of the Marikana victims listen to testimony at the Farlam Commission of Inquiry into the events at Marikana last year that left 44 people dead. New evidence suggests the South African police have been misleading the commission. – by Delwyn Verasamy