'Police feared Lonmin miners'

Lawyers say police's negotiating skills - from inside Nyalas – failed. Picture: SAPA
RUSTENBURG - The police's conduct at Marikana was once again criticised on Monday, with legal teams suggesting that officers were scared when trying to negotiate with striking miners.

A public order policing expert is being cross-examined at the Commission of Inquiry into the deaths of 34 protesters who were gunned down during a clash with police outside Lonmin Mine in August.

Thousands of workers had abandoned tools in protest for better salaries.

Advocate Dumisa Ntsebeza, who is representing some of the families of the victims, said the police's negotiating skills, from inside Nyalas, failed.

“A negotiator who proceeds on the basis that the police are in danger, fears for their life [sic].”

Brigadier Zephaniah Mkhwanazi , who is being cross-examined about what went wrong on the day of the shooting, agreed.

“It has always built confidence between the two parties when they negotiate on a more personal level.”

Ntsebeza said many more water cannons should have been used instead of ammunition, and public order policing members should have been able to deal with crowd control issues.

The commission and its chairman, judge Ian Farlam, will try to determine whether police were justified in using maximum force on the day and whether union rivalry and the way Lonmin management handled the situation played a role into the violence that erupted at the platinum mine last year.