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Deadly force must be reasonable: expert

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By SAPA

Rustenburg -

The use of deadly force in public order policing needed to be reasonable in the circumstances, the Farlam Commission heard on Thursday.

Police expert Brigadier Zephania Mkhwanazi said: “It must be proportional to (the) threat, reasonable to the circumstances (and) cease as soon as the goal has been achieved.”

He was testifying about the principles governing the use of deadly force for public order policing at the Commission of Inquiry into the violence surrounding a strike at Lonmin's Marikana mine in August.

Mkhwanazi said he was not involved in the events nor in planning the operation that ultimately led to the deaths of 34 protesters on August 16.

As such, any opinion he gave on these would be speculation. He would not be drawn into answering questions on this aspect, as he felt it would be “unfair” to criticise the police's plan with the benefit of hindsight.

Commission chairman Ian Farlam said he believed the plan used on that day, and how it went wrong, should be a part of the syllabus for future public order policing training.

This could help to avoid repetition of the mistakes that led to the deaths.

“I suggest it would be a compulsory study in future for all undertaking your training,” Farlam told Mkhwanazi.

Earlier, the cross-examination of Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) president Joseph Mathunjwa was completed.

Mathunjwa said that he felt as if he were a laughing stock for pleading with striking miners ahead of the shootings on August 16.

“For me it was to quell the situation... but at the end of the day I was a laughing stock for kneeling before those workers,” Mathunjwa said.

He addressed workers gathered at a hill near Lonmin's platinum mine in Marikana, North West, on August 16, after being refused a police escort, he said.

He implicitly asked them to leave the hill in an attempt to prevent further bloodshed. By then, 10 people, including two policemen and two security guards, had already been killed in violence related to the strike at the mine.

Later that day, 34 miners were killed and 78 were wounded when police opened fire on them while trying to disperse the group on the koppie.

Farlam commended Mathunjwa for trying to intervene.

“I hope you didn't really get the impression that you were a laughing stock,” he said.

“You made a genuine, sincere effort to persuade people to avoid a massacre. It will be to your eternal credit,” Farlam said.

Mathunjwa also testified that he had tried to soften the news, that Lonmin was not prepared to engage with protesters at the koppie, by implicitly asking them to leave the area.

He said he wanted to give them hope that the situation could be resolved differently.

The Commission heard from Amcu representative Tim Bruinders that the union comprised only about 35 percent of protesters on the hill.

National Union of Mineworker members formed about half, and the rest of the protesters were non-unionised members.

In the morning session, Dali Mpofu, for the injured and arrested miners, said one of the wounded had killed himself since the last hearing, in the first week of December.

The man's family believed the trauma of events surrounding the shooting on August 16 motivated the suicide.

Farlam expressed the commission's condolences to the man's family and friends. - Sapa

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