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Johannesburg - South Africa opens an inquiry on Monday into the police killing of at least 34 miners during one day of violence in August, hoping to uncover how a dispute over pay ended in a bloodbath.
The commission, appointed by President Jacob Zuma, will begin proceedings at the Rustenburg Civic Centre, just a stone's throw from the mine where police gunned down striking platinum workers on August 16.
The commission, led by former Supreme Court of Appeal judge Ian Gordon Farlam, has been asked to "investigate matters of public, national and international concern arising out of the tragic incidents at the Lonmin Mine in Marikana".
The police, miners, unions, government and the mine's owners all face tough questions about their conduct during the unrest.
Miners demanding a large pay increase began striking on August 10. The following weeks of violence a total of 46 people were killed including two police officers.
But it was graphic footage of events on August 16 that shocked the world, raising parallels to brutality under the white apartheid regime, and has been described as the worst police crackdown since democracy in 1994.
Under the current mandate, the commission has four months to complete its work and a further month to present its final report.
It will also send interim reports to Zuma once a month. The first report is due by October 1
“This is not the first time Phiyega has shown utter disrespect for the families of those miners who were killed at Marikana,” DA MP Dianne Kohler-Barnard said today in a statement.
“Shortly after the massacre, she commented at the funeral of one of the police officers killed at Marikana that the police should not feel sorry for their actions.”
The Times reported that Phiyega laughed and joked while footage of the killing of 34 miners in a clash with police was being screened at a commission hearing at the Rustenburg Civic Centre.
Phiyega reportedly joked with a state law adviser while a prelude to the killings was being screened.
Surrounded by senior officers, Phiyega smiled as she watched.
It was only when screams of horror echoed across the room, as footage of the actual shooting was played without warning, that Phiyega’s “humorous demeanour changed to that of an ice queen, blatantly ignoring the wailing families”, according to the report.
Visser showed the commission photos of the body of a mine supervisor who had been hacked to death. "Not the police, and certainly not their co-workers, were spared by these protesters. The body of the supervisor had been hacked several times and a [cattle] skull was placed on his chest. "There were several other animal skulls lying around in the veld. Whether the skull had any significance or not is not for us [to judge]." The commission is investigating the deaths of 34 miners shot in a confrontation with the police near Lonmin's mine in Marikana on 16 August. Ten other people were killed during protests the preceding week. Visser told the three-member commission that as of 14 August, the death toll had risen to 10. Sixteen people were wounded. "The deceased people included mine employees, security and police officers." On 15 August around 03:00, Visser said there was an ATM bombing at a supermarket in Wonderkop, Rustenburg. "At that scene, a police round [bullet] was found. It was linked to the R-5 rifle which had been stolen from police officers killed on 13 August." Explosives had been used to gut the ATM, he said. Police reinforcements were rallied and 746 officers were sent to the Marikana region around 6am on 15 August. Earlier, the commission heard that naked protesters had queued to be sprinkled with muti (traditional medicine) in rituals purported to make them invincible. "At 15:23 [on 14 August] it was reported that the protesters had imported an inyanga [herbalist] or sangoma [traditional healer] to perform rituals that would ensure them victory in a confrontation with opponents," Visser said. "The men gathered at the koppie [hill], carrying pangas, spears, and knobkerries, and believed the inyanga would sprinkle them with muti to make them brave." Aerial photographs of two queues of naked men were shown to the commission. "These rituals were observed by members of the police who were in a chopper. The bodies were wiped down [and sprinkled] with a substance." A large contingent of police vehicles headed to the hill as part of a six-point plan, the aim of which was to disarm the protesters. "Police got there when the ritual was ending. We managed to capture the last part of the ritual on video. As soon as the police arrived, the people started to get dressed. You can clearly see from the video a protester [kneeling down] urinating in the direction of the [arriving] police." In the video, a man in a red shirt stands in the middle of a group of protesters and sprinkles them with a liquid. - SAPA