SA miners allegedly tortured in police custody
MORE THAN two-thirds of the 260 miners arrested after violent clashes with police in South Africa earlier this month have allegedly been tortured while in custody, local media have reported.
The City Press newspaper reported on Sunday that the Independent Police Investigative Directorate had launched investigations at five police stations after the allegations were made by miners in custody since August 16th.
The 194 cases opened against the police include attempted murder and assault with intent to do grievous bodily harm, the paper said.
The accusations made by the miners prompted the main opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) party to call for the suspension of the officers allegedly involved.
“There is a belief that the police can act with impunity,” said DA police spokeswoman Dianne Kohler Barnard. “What we see now is the increased militarisation of the police.”
South Africans have been left reeling since police opened fire on thousands of protesting rock drillers near the Marikana platinum mine in the North West province, killing 34 and wounding 78.
The protesters were seeking a pay increase, but the illegal strike is also linked to rivalry between the National Union of Mineworkers and the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union over recognition agreements. The incident is the worst of its kind in the post-apartheid era, and has prompted widespread speculation about who is to blame.
An independent judicial inquiry has been established to investigate the violence that also claimed the lives of 10 others – including two policemen and two security guards – in the days leading up to what has been dubbed the “Marikana massacre”.
The police claim that opening fire with live ammunition was their only option, as they had come under attack from a large group of miners armed with machetes, sharpened metal rods and pistols.
This was reiterated by Brig Jacobus van Zyl yesterday at the Ga-Rankuwa magistrate’s court where the 260 arrested miners appeared for the second time.
Brig Van Zyl was called by the prosecution team to testify that investigations were still under way, and those arrested should stay in custody. The case was adjourned until next Monday.
But the Star has reported that postmortems carried out on the deceased revealed many of the men were shot in the back.
An unnamed source close to the investigation told the newspaper: “The postmortem reports indicate that most of the people were fleeing from the police when they got killed.”
Representatives for the striking rock drillers and mining company Lonmin were involved in negotiations yesterday in a bid to reopen the mine.