Battered and bruised, jailed survivors of the Marikana mine massacre were systematically “tortured” by police this week.
Shocking details of alleged police torture in cells in and around Rustenburg, North West, emerged yesterday as Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa negotiated with correctional services to take over supervision of the approximately 260 arrested miners.
In the past 72 hours:
The Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID), the police watchdog, has launched an intensive investigation into alleged police brutality at five police stations;
194 affidavits have been taken by IPID investigators from miners on how they were allegedly beaten up by a North West police task team in the past three days;
Hundreds of cases of assault with intent to do grievous bodily harm, and attempted murder, have been opened against officers; and the police have admitted “searching” arrested miners for mobile phones.
At the same time, the family of an injured miner told reporters that he was “abducted” by police shortly after he was discharged from hospital.
Thirty-four miners died when police fired at them with live ammunition on Thursday last week.
The police attack followed the killing of 10 people at Lonmin’s Marikana mine, including two police officers who were hacked to death with pangas and burnt alive.
This week President Jacob Zuma appointed a judicial commission of inquiry, headed by retired Judge Ian Farlam, to probe the massacre.
“This is probably revenge. Lots of police officers have seen those images (of the two officers that were hacked to death) and are furious.
They are obviously looking for those men who killed their colleagues,” said a senior source in the criminal justice system.
The IPID has confirmed that the allegedly assaulted men are witnesses against the police.
Although the extent of the injuries was still unclear, some were told to line up against station walls, and were beaten with batons and other weapons.
Lybon Mabasa, a representative of the miners, said that some of the strikers had been so violently assaulted that their “eyes were (swollen) closed”.
A police officer at Bethanie Police Station, where some of the assaults allegedly took place, said a group of officers had entered the cells under the guise of wanting to search the detained strikers.
“We only found out afterwards about the assaults,” said the officer, who asked not to be named.
Brigadier Thulani Ngubane, police spokesperson for the North West, confirmed there was “an instruction that members must go to police station cells and search the accused for cellphones they were not supposed to have”.
Ngubane said the police would cooperate with the IPID investigation and not deal with “rumours”.
The policemen who allegedly carried out the attacks report directly to North West’s deputy provincial commissioner, Lieutenant General William Mpembe.
Ngubane said it was not about whether the police officers reported to Mpembe. “(Mpembe) was the senior officer in the Joint Operations Centre (JOC).
He was in Mahikeng at the time.” The JOC coordinates police activities relating to last week’s massacre.
Ngubane confirmed that the JOC issued the order for the arrested miners to be searched.
Mabasa said they began receiving reports of assaults on Wednesday.
Attorney Andries Nkome, would only confirm that some of the cases were “quite serious assaults, even attempted murders”.
On Friday night, a four-person IPID team was collecting 64 statements relating to the alleged assaults at Bethanie Police Station.
Fifty statements were taken from miners kept at Mogwase Police Station, and 40 each from miners at the Jericho and Phokeng police offices.
IPID investigators were tight-lipped at the scene.
They were also earlier seen collecting statements from family members near the site of the shooting.
The family of a surviving miner, Luvo Mgcotyelwa, has told reporters that plain-clothes policemen allegedly “abducted” him from hospital.
A distraught Thandazwa Mgcotyelwa (61) said the last she had heard from her son was when he was discharged from Paul Kruger Hospital in Rustenburg.
“Luvo’s uncle was there to pick him up. That’s when these police without uniform approached him. (The police) said nothing about why they were arresting him.”
IPID spokesperson Moses Dlamini confirmed the miners had been witnesses in the IPID’s cases and said it seemed they were beaten to intimidate them from giving evidence against the police.
Dlamini said the IPID was concerned about the seemingly “systematic nature” of the assaults.
Last night ANC MP Annelize van Wyk, the acting chair of Parliament’s portfolio committee on police, said “this is an absolute own goal for the police”.
She will ask for provincial commissioner Lieutenant General Zukiswa Mbombo to appear before the committee.