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Police in South Africa 'lied about killing 34 miners' during pay strikes

Commission of inquiry finds police falsified and withheld documents and gave fabricated accounts of events in August last year

Police in South Africa lied about the killing of 34 Marikana miners shot dead last year, a commission of inquiry into the massacre has said.

The commission, set up by President Jacob Zuma to investigate the deaths, said it had found evidence that police falsified and withheld documents, and gave fabricated accounts of events surrounding the killing of the miners, who had been striking over pay in August last year at a mine run by platinum giant Lonmin.

“…We have obtained documents which in our opinion demonstrate that the SAPS [South African Police Services] version of the events at Marikana, as described in the SAPS presentation to this Commission and in the evidence of SAPS witnesses at this Commission, is in material respects not the truth,” said a statement released today.  

The killings at the Marikana mine, around 100 miles west of Pretoria, were considered the most deadly police action since the end of Apartheid in 1994. Police at the scene said they had acted in self-defence days after two officers had been hacked to death by protesters, and sought to blames the other miners police killings, the authorities sought to portray the miners, who were striking illegally, as responsible for the bloodshed.

Some 270 of the striking miners were arrested and charged with murder, though the charges were later provisionally dropped.

The commission, which had been in the process of cross-examining Col Duncan Scott who had been in charge of disarming and dispersing the Marikana protesters, said in its statement that it would break to allow the SAPS to address the allegations it had made. It said it planned to reconvene later in the month, but appeared to warn that this may depend on the police response to its finding so far.

“We recognise that it is important that the SAPS 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,” it said.