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Lonmin guards ill-prepared for strikers

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Lonmin mine security guards were ill-prepared to manage thousands of the company’s striking employees in August 2012, the Farlam Commission of Inquiry heard on Friday.

“The impression from the incident of the 12th (August 2012) is that your security people were not prepared to deal with the crowd,” Sesi Baloyi, for the police, told Lonmin mining emergency and security manager Graeme Sinclair at the inquiry’s hearings in Pretoria.

“A record indicates that two security guards had one firearm when they confronted the protesters.”

Sinclair said Lonmin security was well prepared.

“We ensured that they had manpower that was brought in on overtime or seconded to us from other areas. We had a higher level of command to manage those people.”

He said apart from the “normal equipment”, the Lonmin guards had special crowd control gear.

Protesting miners killed two Lonmin senior security guards, Hassan Fundi and Frans Mabelani, on August 12, 2012, at Lonmin’s platinum mining operations in Marikana, North West.

Dewald Louw, a Lonmin security superintendent, testified last month that he and a colleague narrowly escaped death that day when their car would not start as they tried to get away from a large group of armed, protesting miners. The car was smashed with knobkerries, pangas, and spears.

Commissioner Pingla Hemraj asked Sinclair: “Are you familiar with the report with the criticisms that have been raised about so many of the security officers not being in possession of firearms and being at critical points? What was done to ensure that officers were adequately equipped?”

Sinclair said he was familiar with the document and that the events of August 2012 were extraordinary.

“This developed into an extraordinary event that we had never dealt with previously. Did we have everything to deal with that level of escalation? I don’t believe so. Those are the shortcomings which need to be addressed,” he said, referring to the events between Saturday, August 11, 2012 and the Sunday.

Sinclair was excused from the inquiry on Friday and was expected to return on a later date.

Police witness, only known as “Mr X”, is scheduled to give further evidence when the inquiry resumes next week.

Chairman of the inquiry, retired judge Ian Farlam, said the public hearings would resume on Thursday as the Tshwane council chambers were not available on Monday and Wednesday.

The commission is investigating the deaths of 44 people during strike-related violence at Lonmin’s platinum mining operations at Marikana in August 2012.

Thirty-four people, mostly striking mineworkers, were shot dead in a clash with police, over 70 were wounded, and over 250 arrested on August 16, 2012. Police were apparently trying to disarm and disperse them.

In the preceding week, 10 people, including two policemen and the two Lonmin security guards, were killed. SAPA

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