Wednesday, October 24, 2012

South African Cop Admits Some Evidence From Marikana Shooting May Be Lost

Cop admits some evidence from Marikana shooting may be lost

A crime scene technician has told the Farlam commission, police may not have accounted for all the evidence collected after the August 16 shooting.

23 Oct 2012 19:39 - Kwanele Sosibo

Lieutenant Colonel Johan Botha, a crime scene technician that visited the scene after the Marikana shootings on August 16, admitted on Tuesday that police may have not accounted for all the evidence collected on the scene following the shootings that left 34 miners dead. He was speaking at the Farlam commission of inquiry.

Botha made this statement during cross examination by evidence leaders and Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union legal representative advocate Tim Breynders about events that transpired between August 9 and August 16 and in particular, August 13, when several people died including police officers and civilians. In a moment of frustration, Botha admitted that they may have missed some cartridges or bullets as the scene was being combed.

Police have also admitted that they have not finalised ballistic reports pertaining to August 16, where it is understood that after the initial bout of gunfire at the first scene of violence, police also went after smaller groups of miners in the other smaller koppies, killing several more.

Botha, who has over 20 years of experience in his job, was the first witness called to the stand after an emotionally charged morning, when more than a dozen video clips of the events of August 16 were shown.

After playing the first three clips, proceedings had to be adjourned to allow family members an opportunity to grieve in private and speak to counsellors.

Judge Ian Farlam, who is heading the commission, expressed dismay at the screening of the offending footage as he was under the impression that the footage to be screened was exclusively contextual.

He concurred with suggestions that the family members should be moved to an adjacent room where, if they wish to, they can watch the footage in seclusion, with the attendant counsellors. "We express our sympathy to those who found it distressing. We all found it distressing but some may have found it particularly distressing because of their personal circumstances."

Dead bodies

The day ended with Botha being questioned by advocate George Bizos about whether he managed to capture any of the killings that took place on August 16 and if he heard what orders his colleagues on the plane were relaying to the policemen below.

Botha said he did not see people falling on the ground, but saw dead bodies lying at scene one, where the initial volley of shooting took place near Nkanini informal settlement.

He said that he failed to capture actual shooting on the day and could not tell whether the bodies were injured or not. Botha grew increasingly frustrated from with the witness stand, being particularly rattled by the incessant nature of Bizos’ questioning.

The commission resumes on Monday.

Lonmin denies government collusion
Meanwhile, Lonmin on Tuesday denied claims that it colluded with the police and the government in the days before the Marikana mine shooting.

"Lonmin's action to engage with appropriate authorities of the state was simply part of a process aimed at achieving normality," the company said in a statement.

"Lonmin is a mining company and is not responsible for law enforcement."

The platinum miner was responding to arguments heard on Tuesday at the Farlam inquiry. The company said it wanted to communicate with the government to ensure it understood the company's view of the situation, to ensure a peaceful resolution of the matter.

Advocate Dali Mpofu, representing the miners injured and arrested after the shooting, told the inquiry of an email in which ANC heavyweight and Lonmin board member Cyril Ramaphosa strongly condemned the protests, described them as criminal acts and suggested "concomitant action".

"This [email] was [sent] on 15 August at 2.58pm, exactly 24 hours before the people were mowed down on that mountain," said Mpofu.

"We have e-mails that were being exchanged between Lonmin management, government ministers [of mineral resources and the police], and at the centre is a gentleman called Cyril Ramaphosa," he said.

"He advanced that what was taking place were criminal acts and must be characterised as such." Mpofu said the email was addressed to a certain "dear Albert of Lonmin".

Discredit claims

He said evidence would be led to discredit claims that the shootings were spontaneous acts committed in self-defence by police officers. One of the causes of the Marikana tragedy was a "toxic collusion between the state and capital", he said.

"The main causes of the massacre are the South African Police Service [SAPS], other agencies of government, and Lonmin. The people I represent here seek the truth for themselves and their colleagues who passed away."

Mpofu described the actions of the police as "murder and extra-judicial killings".

The police opened fire while trying to disperse a group of strikers encamped on a hill in Nkaneng, killing 34 and wounding 78 on August 16.

The workers had been carrying knobkerries, pangas, sticks and iron rods. They went on strike on August 10, demanding a monthly salary of R12 500. Within four days, 10 people had been killed, two of them policemen and two of them security guards. – additional reporting by Sapa

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