‘Police had to use force’
17 August 2012 | CITIZEN REPORTER and SAPA
JOHANNESBURG - Speaking at a press conference in Rustenburg in the North West yesterday, Phiyega described the use of the term as unfortunate, insisting that there should be no finger- pointing but that it was a time to mourn the loss of life.
The total number of deaths now stands at 44 since mineworkers went on strike. The number includes two police officers who were “hacked to death” on Monday. Earlier at the briefing, the police showed video footage of how two policemen were killed by a group of protesters.
The video showed police officials confronting the group, asking them to hand over their weapons. The men told the police the weapons would be handed over on the mountain so the police followed them there. On the hilltop, the incident turned violent and the two police officers were killed. A third police officer is in a critical condition in hospital.
The protests were believed to be linked to rivalry between the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) and the Association of Mineworkers and the Construction Union (Amcu) over recognition agreements at the mine.
Workers also want higher wages. They claim to be earning only R4 000 a month, while those living outside the hostel were earning an extra R1 000. Their demands include pay of R12 500 a month.
Police reinforcements had been called to the area and they had tried to “reason” with the assembled group, with police and union officials pleading with the strikers to disperse.
On Thursday, North West police commissioner Zukiswa Mbombo told the media they had planned to peacefully disperse the crowd by separating them into smaller groups.
According to Phiyega as the police deployed barbed wire, a group of protesters tried to outflank them. “They were met by members of the police who tried to repel the advance with a water cannon, teargas as well as stun grenades. The attempt was unsuccessful and the police members had to employ force to protect themselves from the charging group,” Phiyega said.
The police were closing in on the group of protesters when “the militant group stormed towards the police, firing shots and wielding dangerous weapons”, said Phiyega.
“Police retreated systematically and were forced to utilise maximum force.”
So far 259 people have been arrested with charges ranging from murder, attempted murder, possession of a deadly weapon, malicious damage to property and illegal gathering.
Six firearms, including one that belonged to one of the dead officers, were recovered. A single police officer was hurt but has since been discharged from hospital.
Meanwhile, a commission of inquiry would be set up to investigate the causes of a shooting that left the 34 people dead in the North West, President Jacob Zuma said yesterday.
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