I took Marikana decision – Mpembe

North West deputy police chief Major-General William Mpembe took the decision to disperse protesters at a hill in Marikana, the Marikana Commission of Inquiry heard.

“I briefed provincial commissioner Lieutenant-General Mbombo, who later called a task team meeting,” Mpembe told the commission today, sitting in Centurion, Pretoria.

“Different commanders also gave feedback on what had been happening on that morning of August 16. The decision to implement the dispersal was agreed upon at that meeting.”

The decision to disperse the strikers, also known as “stage three”, led to police shooting dead 34 protesters on that day.

Mpembe said an intelligence report was presented at the meeting. He said he had, before the meeting, briefed Mbombo that the situation at the koppie at Marikana, where striking Lonmin miners had gathered, changed “for the worst”. Negotiations through union leaders also failed.

Police did not seem to have a clear indication of whether Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union president Joseph Mathunjwa told protesters to lay down their weapons and disperse, as he undertook to do in a meeting the previous day.

The commission’s chairman, retired Judge Ian Farlam, asked Mpembe who took the decision to disperse protesters.

“Who bears the ultimate responsibility for this decision? Is it you or the provincial commissioner?”

Mpembe said, as Mbombo’s deputy, he would have to brief his superior before implementing any decision.

“I took a decision, briefed her, and she agreed.”

The commission is probing the circumstances surrounding the deaths of 44 people during an unprotected strike at Lonmin’s platinum mine in Marikana, North West, in August.