Some of the police officers involved in the Marikana massacre shot and killed 17 miners because they mistakenly believed they were being fired at … but the bullets flying around them were those fired by their own colleagues.
That chilling scenario unfolded yesterday at the release of a comprehensive report on the massacre released by the Institute for Security Studies (ISS).
The report detailed the events that led to the deaths of 44 people, including Lonmin mine workers, police officers and security officials, during the unprotected strike in August 2012.
Independent researcher David Bruce revealed what could have transpired at what is known as “scene 2”, where 17 miners were shot and killed over a period of 11 minutes.
The chilling details by Bruce, based on photographs, statements from police and surviving miners, and ballistic and forensic evidence, found that police in fact fired shots in retaliation to bullets flying in from their own colleagues, despite testimonies before the Marikana Commission of Inquiry headed by retired judge Ian Farlam stating they were attacked by the miners.
The police evidence, which the commission dubbed as a “chaotic free-for-all”, was rejected in the inquiry as it did not tally with the evidence, Bruce explained.
“Some police thought they were under fire from the miners when it was, in fact, bullets from their colleagues approaching from the other side of the area. In the absence of an immediate threat, the responsibility of police was to take cover and identify the source of the shooting. Instead, they fired lethal R5 assault rifle rounds into the area where a large number of men had gathered,” he said.
“It seems clear the police at scene 2 were acting recklessly and irresponsibly. One needs to look at emotions that had a powerful role in motivating the way in which the police were actively involved in the shooting. Police shootings were driven by emotions, fear and anxiety, and not based on law,” Bruce said.
The ISS report said the killings were the result of “emotions and fear”.
The ISS detailed how 57 police officers from four different units fired 295 bullets at the mineworkers.
In his report, Bruce said more than two-thirds of the shots were from R5 rifles, with some police officers shooting from a tactical vantage point atop high rocks.
Evidence from the miners suggests they were trying to surrender when police opened fire on them. – email@example.com