Mpembe's decisions appropriate - police expert
FILE PICTURE: Marikana Inquiry chairman, Judge ...show more
13 December 2012 | Sapa
Public order policing training expert Brigadier Zephania Mkhwanazi was asked to comment on Mpembe's decision not to take action against a group of "heavily armed" protesters on August 13.
"I would say it was correct, depending on how many (police) members and how many protesters (there were)," Mkhwanazi said.
Advocate Ishmael Semenya, for the police, said Mpembe had felt that he had an inadequate number of officers to deal with the armed protesters.
He had asked the group to lay down their arms and in exchange the police would not arrest them. The protesters refused but Mpembe did not order any arrests.
Mkhwanazi said that one had to take into account "was he going to put the [police] members' lives in danger, or what was the situation?" in order to comment on the appropriateness of this decision.
Rather, Mpembe ordered the police officers to escort the group back to the koppie, where the protesters were expected to disarm.
Mkhwanazi said this was a "matter of trust", dependent on the situation. He was not initially expected to present his opinion on the events.
On Wednesday, he indicated that he felt it would be "unfair" to comment on the events -- in which he was not involved -- with the benefit of hindsight.
Earlier, Mkhwanazi explained that threat assessments are carried out to determine the roles played by various law enforcement divisions.
Situations perceived to have a low level of risk -- such as a march by old age pensioners -- are classified as Level One threats, Mkhwanazi said.
These operations usually required traffic officers and visible policing members, with public order police on standby.
Level Two protests -- such as a march by schoolchildren -- were those with a medium level of risk. In such marches, damage to property might be expected.
For these events, public order police would be in the vicinity, but would not be a visible presence, and would be mobilised only if necessary.
Protests that were likely to escalate into violence were designated as Level Three threats, such as service delivery protests. Public order police would be in control of these operations, Mkhwanazi said.
The three-member commission is holding public hearings at the Rustenburg Civic Centre. Retired judge Ian Farlam is chairman of the judicial commission of inquiry. The other commissioners are senior advocates Bantubonke Tokota and Pingla Hemraj.
Thirty-four striking miners were shot dead on August 16 and 78 were wounded when the police opened fire on them while trying to disperse a group which had gathered on a hill near the mine.
In the preceding week, 10 people, including two police officers and two security guards, were hacked to death near the mine.
President Jacob Zuma announced in the commission in August.
Zuma said it must complete its work within four months, and would have to submit its final report a month later.
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