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Mthethwa taking heat at Marikana inquiry

The former police minister has been criticised for praising police after the shooting in August 2012.

FILE: Police open fire at protesting workers at the Lonmin mine in Marikana, North West on 16 August, 2012. Picture: EWN

JOHANNESBURG - Former police minister Nathi Mthethwa has been criticised for praising the police after the August 2012 shooting in Marikana and referring to protesters as anarchists.

Mthethwa, who is now the Minister of Arts and Culture, is being cross examined at the Marikana Commission of Inquiry about the role he played in the days leading up to the shooting deaths at the North West platinum mine almost two years ago.

Thirty-four people died while another ten bodies were found in the days leading up to the police shooting.

Advocate Dumisa Ntsebeza, who is representing the families of the victims, has shown the commission a video clip of the former police minister praising the police officers in Marikana after the shooting.

"It seems to me that here you were clear. The message that you were sending across is that the police were justified because in your view, they [protesters] were running amok. They were anarchists."

Mthethwa says he was only referring to the protesters who had killed, damaged property and were involved in violent acts.

Ntsebeza says the families want to hear that nothing should ever justify the police killing their own people.

The former police minister has also tried to defend the police's conduct in Marikana saying they had a right to carry and use firearms, within the bounds of the law.

He says that people who kill are criminals, referring to the protesters in Marikana.

But he insists that the police have a right to use force in certain situations.

"The police, by law, have a right to carry firearms, have a right to use firearms when necessary and within the bounds of the law they would have to do that."

Mthethwa says while he understands that the police were forced to used live ammunition to defend themselves, he agrees this still needs to be scrutinised.

'MTHETHWA SHOULD'VE BEEN INFORMED'

At the commission on Monday, retired Judge Ian Farlam said the former police minister should have been informed that officers in Marikana were moving into a tactical phase.

Mthethwa said he didn't know the police's operation plan, but was assured by the national and provincial commissioners that the situation was under control.

He said he was told police reinforcements would be brought in to restore calm to Marikana, but he didn't know exactly what the police had planned on doing.

He didn't know what types of firearms they were carrying or when they decided to go into a tactical phase.

Farlam said National Police Commissioner Riah Phiyega should've kept him up to date.

"There would surely be nothing wrong with the national commissioner just informing you as a courtesy to keep you up to date because you wanted to be kept up to date that this was going to happen."

While Mthethwa has distanced himself from the police's conduct, he also said that when they were faced by armed 'criminals', there was no time for them to refer to the human rights charter.

President Jacob Zuma appointed the inquiry to investigate whether police were justified in using lethal force.

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