AS survivors of the violence at Small Koppie and the veld around it give their eyewitness accounts, there is no longer doubt: Among the policemen deployed at Marikana on August 16, some intended murder.
Report by Daily Maverick
We are willing to believe that the televised police shooting at the crowd which reacted to being penned in and tear-gassed, was the result of fear, bad organisation and poor intelligence.
Once those policemen are on the stand, we will have some idea as to what their orders were and what they intended to do.
Yet the miners who were there do not see it that way at all. They believe they — and especially their leadership — were being targeted.
Analysis of the footage certainly lends credence to both points of view.
But what happened afterwards is where the forces of law and order degenerate into another force altogether. One that breaks down the very fabric of trust between a citizenry and the instruments of state that are meant to ensure those citizens’ rights and freedoms.
In Marikana, the state has pitted itself against the very citizens it is created by and is intended to serve. Our elected politicians seem to have taken on the role of defenders of a police action. We are, without exaggeration, seeing the emergence of a police state.
As one of the survivors of the massacre, Zeakes (not real name), recalled: “I was so afraid. It was the first time I am hearing the sound of a lot of bullets like that. Other splinters were coming on my head. As the cops approached through the bush I said to myself, I am going to die now.”
Zeakes was afraid because he had just seen two fellow miners stand up with their arms in the air, trying to surrender. They were both shot down.
Speaking about what happened after they had been arrested at Small Koppie, “Another policeman was holding a kierrie, and hitting anyone while we were lying down; he was saying, ‘Ja, you cop killers, you cop killers, you think that you are going to survive by doing this?’”
Zeakes recalled another policeman saying, “You are useless people … if it was in Zimbabwe, we could just set … petrol on top of you; and set fire on top of you while you are still lying down there. Because you are cop killers. You are killing government people. Innocent cops are killed by you.”
While on the ground in the aftermath, Zeakes said he had two policemen bragging in SeSotho about shooting the miners, like it was a competition.
“I wanted to take him from my angle with my 9mm, but you already took him down with your R4 (sic).”
We know that at least 34 people died that day. We know that most were not killed in the initial incident. They were killed subsequently, over time. Hunted across the veld and in the boulders like animals.
Other journalists have unearthed more survivors, witnesses to cold-blooded murder. Their accounts match the accounts of the Daily Maverick newspaper witnesses.
That this occurred is no longer debatable. It happened. As did the torture of the survivors in prison. There are at least 94 cases opened against the police.
There were indeed 14 murdered at Small Koppie. Let us take the upper estimate for how many died at Wonderkop — 12. That means a further 10, at least, were killed in the veld, some chased by police on horseback, others fired on by policemen in helicopters.
Whatever threat the policemen on the ground believed the crowd posed when they surged forward off the mountain, after the initial fusillade the miners trying to run away posed no threat.
This begs the big question: Why were deadly Tactical Response Teams deployed in such numbers? Why were so few crowd control weapons on display? Who issued the deployment instructions? Who gave the police commanders approval to go “to tactical phase”? (According to still-circumstantial evidence, the authorisation to use full force, including live ammunition, was issued a day before.)
Let us be clear: It was no tragedy; it was murder, murder of the underclass at the behest of those in power, be that power economic or political, or both.