South Africa: Police 'lied' about deadly miners' shooting, commission says


Riot policemen take their position during a demonstration of miners near South African government buildings in Pretoria, on September 12, 2013.


Alexander Joe

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa — Police lied about events surrounding the Marikana shootings last year, in which 34 striking mineworkers were killed, a commission of inquiry has said.

President Jacob Zuma established the inquiry amid widespread public anger in South Africa following the mass shooting by police at the Lonmin-owned platinum mine.

The commission said Thursday that police falsified documents, withheld documents and gave false accounts of events.

Some of the documents demonstrate that the police version of events at Marikana "is in material respects not the truth," a statement said.

The statement comes 10 days after the commission obtained access to police hard drives and copies of documents.

The commission announced it would be postponing the inquiry until Wednesday to further investigate police material.

"We are still examining the new material which we have obtained, which runs into thousands of pages," the statement said.

"We do not make this statement lightly," it added. "We recognize that it is important that the [South African Police Service] should have the opportunity to explain the matters which have raised our concern."

"However, we have to say that absent a convincing explanation, the material which we have found has serious consequences for the further conduct of the work of this commission."

The police shootings near the town of Marikana, northwest of Johannesburg, on Aug. 16, 2012 were the most deadly police action in the 18 years since apartheid ended.

A total of 44 people were killed in weeks of violent protests at the mine, including 10 deaths in the week leading up to the police mass shooting, among them two police officers and two security guards.

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The Marikana inquiry, led by retired judge Ian Farlam, is tasked with examining the roles of police, unions, mine management and government ministries in the shootings.

The commission, which began in October 2012, had originally been expected to complete its investigation within four months.