Marikana: Cele’s ‘shoot to kill’ on the spot
Former police commissioner General Bheki Cele’s “shoot-to-kill” statement was in the spotlight at today’s proceedings of the Marikana Commission of Inquiry.
Brigadier Johannes Petrus Breytenbach, who gave evidence on Friday, was asked during cross examination by Advocate George Bizos if the police training manual gave them powers to shoot indiscriminately at protesters.
Breytenbach, a police training co-ordinator who is testifying on behalf of the SA Police Services to outline police training methods, said police were governed by the law.
He said the law had remained the same after Cele made remarks to the effect that police should shoot to kill.
Cele has since denied making the statement, saying he had said police should “use deadly force when under attack”.
Breytenbach said he understood Cele’s statement to mean that police had to protect themselves when in danger.
Bizos asked Breytenbach if he would have authorised the deployment of the National Intervention Unit, Tactical Reaction Team and the National Task Force to deal with the crowd of striking mineworkers at Marikana.
Breytenbach said he could not comment because he did not have all the facts regarding the situation at Marikana before him.
“Was a person that was unarmed and was there simply to fight for a living wage a criminal?” Bizos asked.
“I don’t want to comment on that because an unarmed person is not necessarily not a dangerous person,” replied Breytenbach.
“What would a person without a gun do to a police officer armed with an R-5?” Bizos fired again.
Breytenbach said he understood the situation at Marikana to have been much more complex than Bizos put it, and that there were more than 3 000 people gathered there on the day.
“We are going to argue that your attitude is that of Pontius Pilate who simply washed his hands,” Bizos said.
But commission chairperson retired judge Ian Farlam objected to Bizos’s statement, saying Breytenbach was not even there on the day of the shooting, and Pontius Pilate was a ruler of that time.
Bizos’s cross examination centred around why police units that “are trained to kill” were deployed to deal with a crowd of people who “were hungry, thirsty, and were simply gathered there to demand a living wage”.
Breytenbach said the units deployed at Marikana on the day were the National Intervention Unit, National Task Force, Tactical Reaction Unit, Public Order Policing, the K-9 (Dog Unit) and detective and forensic crime scene experts.
The inquiry continues.