I’ve destroyed him – cop gloats
Police’s footage and photos raise troubling questions about Klein Koppie shootings
The body of a man lies facing upwards, with his legs and arms spread out in the grass.
His old pair of jeans, torn below the knee, look bloodstained on the right thigh. Blood trickles from a stomach wound.
A man identified as a police officer, wearing khaki pants and shirt and with a bulletproof vest over his burly figure, crouches next to the body, fiddling with blue sanitary gloves.
It is not clear what he is doing to the body. Behind him, a police Nyala drives past.
There is the noisy crackle of a two-way radio, the whirring of a helicopter and some indistinct voices around the scene.
Then a police officer – wearing what appears to be a uniform belonging to the tactical response team – his face obscured, arrives at the scene, seemingly speaking to someone.
He pauses next to the body of the man, looking down. He surveys the body and can then be heard repeatedly saying, with much zeal: “Hayi! Ke mo thubile! Ke mo thubile!” In the Sesotho, Setswana and Sepedi languages, this means: “Damn! I’ve destroyed him! I’ve destroyed him!”
This is an expression usually used to gloat about or to celebrate defeating an enemy.
The body in question is that of 26-year-old Thobile Mpumza, one of the 34 people who were killed when police opened fire on a crowd of protesting mine workers in Marikana on August 16.
In September, City Press reported in its Faces of Marikana project that Mpumza, of Mvalweni village near Mount Ayliff, was his family’s sole breadwinner and had not been working for Lonmin at the time of his death.
He had been fired a year earlier for engaging in an illegal strike. When his former colleagues went on strike again in August this year, he joined in, hoping to be reinstated in his job as a rock-drill operator.
He supported his one-year-old baby, his siblings and their children, aged between 7 and 13.
He dropped out of school in Grade 7 following his parents’ deaths because he could no longer afford school fees and a uniform.
He wanted better for his nieces and nephews, all of whom he was putting through school.
Advocate Dali Mpofu told the Marikana Commission of Inquiry this week that Mpumza’s body was riddled with 12 wounds, although police forensic expert Captain Apollo Jeremiah Mohlaki said he had counted only five wounds on Mpumza’s chest at the scene.
Mpofu put it to Mohlaki that 10 of the bodies at the site, dubbed Klein Koppie, had only one wound, in contrast to Mpumza’s 12.
But Mohlaki said he could not confirm this because he never did a thorough check of the bodies.
The footage of the police officer standing over Mpumza’s body and shouting was shot by the police moments after Mpumza and 18 others were shot and killed.
It is one of two videos shown at the commission this week.
The scene where Mpumza died is about 600m from where television and press cameras captured shocking images of police opening fire on a group of miners who appeared to be charging at them.
But the scene at Klein Koppie was not captured by the media.
Glimpses of the events at Klein Koppie emerged this week when the commission saw police photographs of bloodied bodies, some with eyes staring blankly in death, lying between rocks, near trees and in the open veld.
Evidence led before the commission showed bodies photographed during the day without any weapons next to them, while pictures taken by Mohlaki after sunset mysteriously show the same bodies with spears, pangas, sharpened iron rods and sticks next to them.
Some of the bodies in the photographs appear lying face down with their hands tied behind them.
In the video, Mpumza’s body is lying in an open field a distance away from the koppie, with the white shirt he was wearing still intact and no weapons next to him. But in another video and photographs, the shirt is unbuttoned, exposing numerous wounds on his chest and what appear to be a spear and a knobkierrie about two metres away.
Mohlaki said it appeared “paramedics or somebody was busy with (Mpumza’s) body”, which could explain why his shirt had been torn open when the forensic expert eventually took photographs of his body.
Mohlaki said he had not seen anyone place weapons next to the bodies and could not explain how they had appeared in his photos.
In what has been a difficult week for the police at the inquiry, the lawyer representing the police, Advocate Ishmael Semenya SC, said the police had already been convicted in the court of public opinion.
He also argued the commission’s first phase had seemingly focused on the police, when the terms of reference were wider than that.
Semenya argued that roles played by other parties should be probed.
The inquiry continues on Wednesday.