Damning new footage uncovered by the Marikana Support Committee’s Rehad Desai is, according to the filmmaker activist, set to further implicate the South African Police Service in the deaths of 34 miners at Lonmin’s Marikana mine on August 16 last year.
On Monday during a screening of the new footage at the Bioscope Independent Cinema in Johannesburg, Desai, who is making a film about last year’s strike at Marikana, alleged the new evidence confirmed “police told lies about their role in the killings at Marikana” and called on the National Prosecuting Authority to charge them with murder.The month-long strike at Marikana claimed at least 44 lives.
Desai said he had uncovered the material in the course of conducting research for his film and that some of the new evidence had been “partially” submitted to the Farlam Commission of Inquiry “as part of exhibit AAA”. He said he had spent months scouring the footage.
The footage, previously unseen by the public, first shows miners peacefully moving off the koppie towards the Wonderkop informal settlement in the presence of police and army armoured vehicles. According to Desai, it appears as though the leaders of the strike, including Mgcineni “Mambush” Noki, commonly known as the Man in the Green Blanket, were the first to leave the koppie.
Others followed, moving slowly and in an apparently unthreatening manner. Then, it seems, Nyalas and other armoured vehicles herded the miners away from the direction of the informal settlement and towards a phalanx of Tactical Response Team policemen.
The footage previously made public is from these policemen’s view. Vitally, from this new camera angle, one can see police firing what appears to be birdshot from between the Nyalas at the corralled miners. Teargas also appears to have been fired.
The footage shows that at this point the miners were still moving slowly, crouching and attempting to avoid being hit. It is at this pivotal moment that the volley of live ammunition commonly witnessed in footage so far made public, can be heard.
Desai said: “The police have always insisted that officers spontaneously used their firearms in the face of an alleged imminent attack by miners that jeopardised police officers.” He told The Con this official line was consistently advanced by the police’s senior counsel, Ishmael Semenya, at the Farlam Commission, but that the new footage “put paid” to that argument and was more suggestive of premeditated action on the part of the police.
Former state intelligence minister Ronnie Kasrils, who was present at the screening, said the footage made it “very clear” that the miners were “terrified” after being shot at with “buckshot” and that “no one is drunk on muthi or mad [as hypothesised by police and leaders from government and the National Union of Mineworkers in statements after the massacre]. They are walking in a very orderly way coming past the Nyalas when the police start pumping buckshot at them.”
Desai also noted that the new footage shows “the police taking out their pistols from their holsters well before the alleged attack and before the miners arrived on the scene”. He also pointed out “that firearms can be heard to be ‘cocked’ on four occasions, and on two of these occasions can be seen and heard on the footage”. This, said Desai, was against the police’s standing orders, which stated explicitly that guns should be drawn only in the case of “imminent danger”.
Standing order 262 prohibits the use of live ammunition in events like Marikana, its further stipulates that reasonable and minimum force can be used but on the instruction of a commander. The standing order allows police to either contain or disperse a crowd in such circumstances but does not give detail on the measures allowed for dispersal.
“Before the miners reached the koppie where they were killed, they were walking relatively slowly, not charging or attacking the police as alleged,” observed Desai. “The miners were peacefully leaving the mountain at Marikana shortly before they were attacked by police.”
According to Desai, this latest evidence adds to the mounting case against the police’s actions on August 16 2012 and the bad faith with which they have apparently approached the Farlam Commission. Last month, The Con revealed that police allegedly tampered with video evidence by apparently splicing together footage taken in the days preceding August 16 to create the impression that miners had agreed to attack police.
Question marks also hang over the veracity of the police’s plan to deal with the miners on August 16 last year. Experts are currently clarifying whether the document had not been concocted weeks after the massacre.
Last week, the Farlam Commission heard evidence that police had ordered four mortuary vehicles from the Phokeng mortuary before 8.30am on the morning of August 16 – in apparent anticipation of the bloodletting that was to follow.
When questioning Lieutenant Colonel Duncan Scott who was responsible for the police plan, the commission’s evidence leader Matthew Chaskalson SC noted that police colonels had made the call because they “anticipated that there may be people killed in the process of closing down the miners”.
The mortuary had only sent one van and Chaskalson had questioned Scott on whether he knew what capacity the vehicles had and whether he knew the officers who had ordered the vehicles. Scott answered the first question in the negative but confirmed that he knew one of the two policemen mentioned.
Chaskalson will continue questioning Scott, who was instrumental in drawing up the police’s plan used at Marikana, when the Commission reconvenes on October 23. On behalf of the Marikana Support Campaign, Desai called on the National Director of Public Prosecutions to withdraw charges laid against the 270 arrested and injured miners and, instead, to charge the police officers present on August 16 with murder.
Main Picture: A screen grab from new footage released on October 21 that shows police cocking guns in contravention of Standing Orders on crowd control, well before the miners approach them. Filmmaker Rehad Desai has, who uncovered the new footage, has alleged that the police action in this footage further implicate them in the premeditated murder of 34v miners at Lonmin’s Marikana mine last year and is contrary to the police version that they had killed in self-defense.