South Africa police ‘lied over mine shootings’ – Commission

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South African police standing over some of the massacred miners
South African police standing over some of the massacred miners

South African police lied about the Marikana shootings last year, in which 34 striking miners were killed, a commission of inquiry has said.

Police falsified or withheld documents, and gave false accounts of events, it said.

The police shooting of the miners at the Lonmin-owned platinum mine in August 2012 shocked the nation.

The police said they were acting in self-defence, days after two officers had been hacked to death by protesters.

The commission was appointed by President Jacob Zuma to investigate the deaths of the 34 miners – the most deadly police action since the end of white minority rule in 1994.

Its statement

 comes just 10 days after gaining access to police computer hard drives and previously unseen police documents.

“We have obtained documents which the SAPS [South African Police Services] previously said were not in existence…

“We have obtained documents which in our opinion demonstrate that the [police] version of the events at Marikana… is in material respects not the truth,” the commission said.

It said the material which had come to light had “serious consequences” for its future work.

The hearing was adjourned until Wednesday, while the commission reviewed the “thousands of pages” of documents, and sought to obtain access to additional hard drives and electronic records.

In the immediate aftermath of the police killings, the authorities sought to portray the miners, who were striking illegally, as responsible for the bloodshed.

Some 270 of the striking miners were arrested and charged with murder, though the charges were later provisionally dropped.

The government was criticised for its handling of the crisis, and some of the Marikana miners remain angry that not a single policeman has yet been arrested over the shootings.

Marikana shootings timeline

Members of the mining community walk near crosses placed at the "Hill of Horror", where miners died during clashes with police in 2012
  • 10 Aug 2012: About 3,000 workers launch a wildcat strike; three days of clashes kill 10, including two police officers
  • 16 Aug: Police open fire on miners, killing 34 and injuring 78 – 270 workers are arrested
  • 23 Aug: President Jacob Zuma appoints a judge-led inquiry to investigate the shootings
  • 30 Aug: State authorities charge all 270 arrested miners with murder under apartheid-era “common purpose” rule
  • 2 Sept: Charges are provisionally dropped after a national outcry
  • 3 Sept: First group of miners freed
  • 18 Sept: Miners agree to a pay offer of a rise of up to 22%
  • 20 Sept: Miners return to work

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