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‘Mthethwa didn’t meddle in Marikana operation'

The former police minister's lawyer says he gave no operational order.

FILE: Former Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa. Picture: GCIS.

JOHANNESBURG - Nathi Mthethwa's legal team is submitting final arguments at the Farlam Commission of Inquiry, insisting the former police minister did not cross any line when trying to neutralise the violent situation in Marikana.

The commission is in its final phase, after sitting for 293 days and hearing testimony from more than 50 witnesses.

The inquiry is investigating the deaths of 34 miners who were gunned down by police on 16 August 2012 at Lonmin's Marikana mine.

President Jacob Zuma appointed the inquiry to investigate whether police were justified in using lethal force when the protesting miners were gunned down.

Ten othet people were also killed in the days leading to the shooting including a mineworker, strikers, two Lonmin security guards and two policemen.

Lindi Nkosi-Thomas, who is representing the former police minister, said Mthethwa did not meddle in the Marikana operation.

She insisted that no operational order was given by Mthethwa and there was no basis for him to be investigated or charged.

But Advocate Dali Mpofu, who is representing the wounded and arrested Marikana miners, said there was political pressure on the police to act in a more pointed way and this started with Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa who was a Lonmin shareholder at the time.

Ramaphosa called Mthethwa to inform him about the criminal activities on the ground and pushed for more officers to be deployed to the area.

COMMISSION'S POWER QUESTIONED

The police's legal team questioned the commission's powers, saying it was unlikely the president will prosecute the South African Police Service (SAPS).

Advocate Ishmael Semenya is submitting his final arguments on behalf of the officers who were involved in dispersing the miners.

Semenya says there seems to be a misunderstanding of what the commission's duty is.

He says there are structures like the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID) which investigate the police and commissioner Ian Farlam must be careful of employing a judicial function.

Farlam disagreed and says the terms of reference show he has the right to recommend action being taken.

NUM BLAMES BREAKDOWN IN BARGAINING PROCESS

Earlier, the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) said there was a breakdown in the collective bargaining process at Lonmin which led to the unprotected strike.

The union's legal counsel, Karel Tip, explained to the commission that there was collective bargaining agreement in place at Lonmin in 2012.

He said the strike at Impala Platinum triggered the situation at Lonmin.

Meanwhile, Mpofu said the platinum producer could have still opened negotiations with miners despite a bargaining agreement.

He insisted things would have turned out differently if the miners' grievances were addressed from the start.

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