Police say Marikana miner killings may have been disproportionate

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 23 October, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 23 October, 2012, 4:26am

South African police have expressed their "deep regret" over 34 miners who were shot dead in August and acknowledged that the force's response may have been disproportionate.

"The situation got out of control," admitted police lawyer Ishmael Semenya while giving evidence at an inquiry yesterday, as he catalogued the fateful actions taken to disperse strikers at Lonmin's Marikana platinum mine on August 16.

Semenya insisted all police actions on that day were taken in self-defence - pointing to two guns later found on the deceased and three other arms that were discovered.

"The use of lethal force was the last possible resort," he said, "there was no murderous intent from the part of the police service."

But he admitted that officers from a tactical response team had opened fire on advancing miners without receiving any order to do so.

"The evidence may reveal that the response of the police may have been disproportionate," he said.

President Jacob Zuma set up the investigation after widespread revulsion at the shootings, which were broadcast live on television and which reminded many of the worst brutality of the apartheid era.