South African police lied about miners’ strike shootings, an inquiry has revealed. The commission of inquiry, set up by President Jacob Zuma, was in response to the police massacre of 34 striking mine workers in April 2012. The inquiry, which has been delayed several times due to funding issues, publicly criticised police even before its offical conclusion, something which is very rare especially in such a secretive country. The files obtained from the police “demonstrate that the [police] version of the events at Marikana… is in material respects not the truth,” the commission said. The information was obtained from previously unseen documents and computer hard drives.
The clash occurred last year during a pay dispute between Lonmin, the third largest producer of Platinum, and the mining unions at a plant near Marikana, North West of Johannesburg . The ensuing strike action saw mineworkers face down police who claimed they were fearful of attack by machetes and other weapons.
Although both sides suffered fatalities, many have criticised the police who delivered a level of violence comparable to that of the apartheid era. Furthermore, reports from post-mortem examinations at the time indicated that many of the 34 miners that died had been shot in the back, throwing doubt on the police claim that they were acting in self-defence. Immediately after the shootings, the authorities were quick to blame all the bloodshed on the miners, leading to the arrest and murder charge of around 270 miners. To make matters worse, both the police and Lonmin have been able to employ private lawyers for the case, leaving the hundreds of minors poorly represented. Many of the miners, after losing their jobs, are struggling with the basic cost of living, without expensive legal bills.
The man leading the Commission, Judge Ian Farlam, has halted proceedings after accusing the police of a string of damming indictments including falsification of documents, withholding of information and the fabrication of testimonies. “We do not make this statement lightly,” the Commission wrote, “We recognise that it is important that [the police] should have the opportunity to explain the matters which have raised our concern. “However absent a convincing explanation, the material which we have found has serious consequences for the further conduct of the Commission.”The initial verdict was made after 10 days of analysing documents but thousands of pages worth of evidence is still to be checked and the Commission is actively seeking to obtain more computer hard disks.