‘Shoot to kill’ discussed at Marikana Inquiry

Former top cop Bheki Cele's comments were not taken literally, a police training coordinator says.

Police open fire at protesting workers at the Lonmin mine in Marikana, North West on 16 August, 2012. Picture: Taurai Maduna/Eyewitness News.

MARIKANA - Former National Police Commissioner General Bheki Cele's "shoot to kill" statement was under the spotlight at the Marikana Commission of Inquiry on Monday.

Legal teams asked whether police took this notion seriously when they opened fire on protesting Lonmin mineworkers.

At least 34 striking employees were killed in the August 16 shooting.

President Jacob Zuma then formed an inquiry to investigate whether police were justified in using live ammunition on demonstrators.

On Monday, a police training coordinator took the stand at the Rustenburg Civic Centre in the North West.

Brigadier Petrus Breytenbach said he recalled Cele's statement, but he did not believe that it was taken literally.

He said officers were trained to use lethal force as a final resort.

Breytenbach added the decision was usually made by an operational commander on the ground.

Advocate Dali Mpofu, who is acting on behalf of the 78 miners that were injured during the shooting and the victims' families, argued that police acted as a group.

He said officers were ordered to open fire on protesters moments before the incident.

The advocate also tried to ascertain why police used lethal force and who gave the order.

Reading from a training manual, Mpofu said it was clear that the decision to use live ammunition was not made by officers on the ground.

Breytenbach agreed, saying an operational commander would have instructed them.

But the brigadier stressed he was not on the scene on the day in question.

Breytenbach said in his opinion, rubber bullets were effective when dispersing dangerous and armed protesters.