An attorney with the Legal Resources Centre, Michael Power, was at Small Koppie at about 11 am. He was taking pictures of the letters denoting where forensic evidence was found. Simultaneously, there was a group of men, not in uniform, also taking pictures. One of them approached Power and introduced himself as a police captain, and cordially asked them stay out of their shots. The attorney complied and did not think much of it.
The time date stamp on Power’s camera shows that he took his first image at 11h02, and his last at 11h22, before he left the policemen still busy at Small Koppie and walked to Wonderkop.
At the Marikana Kentucky Fried Chicken (yes, there is one), Power mentioned that police were at Small Koppie. This was at 11h40 or so. Daily Maverick’s Sipho Hlongwane went to Small Koppie, and called me. He said that something really odd had happened – the crime scene enumeration had been defaced. Someone had used the same kind of spray paint and made the original letters indecipherable.
On arriving at Small Koppie myself, I saw that this was indeed the case. It was perplexing. Shortly thereafter, the attorney Power and the Socio and Economic Rights Institute of South Africa (SERI) team arrived, whose Jackie Dugard confirmed that she arrived at about 12h50, and took images that were of the already defaced letters.
This means that the original crime scene letters were defaced, erased and/or altered between 11h20 and 12h50. The police were present most of this period. This means it is highly likely they were responsible for this. It would have been very, very difficult for anyone else to sneak through unseen.
The big question is: why?
The IPID spokesperson, Moses Dlamini, was unaware of the changes to the markings. “I don’t know, I am not commenting,” he said.
Let us look at what was defaced, and what was not. The letters E,D, G, H, J, K, I, H, F and N were defaced. X was not.
A picture gallery:
I have been told by insiders that all these letters except F denote where bodies lay. F was where a pistol was found. Well, actually F was painted on the rock closest to where the only firearm was found by police. There is a painted line running down from F across the sand and onto the facing boulder. The marking on the facing boulder looks like a faint 1. It was not defaced. Why?
This is because the mark that looks like a 1 is actually just a line to allow the crime scene investigator to measure exactly where between the two boulders the pistol was found. The 1 has no real crime scene significance. It was therefore ignored. This decision could only have been taken by someone with intimate knowledge of the crime scene and what each mark meant, or did not mean.
The paint blobs and splatters, the significance of which I am not sure, were similarly ignored.
The only painted letter to be ignored was X.
Why? It seemed to be a mystery, until we walked a circumference of the scene. There we found a rock on the periphery painted with an X. And there were also two short lines, like dashes, spray painted onto the grass. This was very similar to the original X, which lay near N.
Four different people, who had spent time at the scene over the last two weeks, all said that this was the first time they had seen this new X. It was also new to me. On close inspection, it was clear it was freshly painted. The dry, brittle grass had not been disturbed by weather or walkers, unlike all the other, older marks on the grass at other spots.
It remained a puzzle. Some hours while driving home, it became clear to me – an insider had told me that X was the site of a body. This was something I had missed in my first investigation, and not mentioned in the first story on Small Koppie.
In my second follow-up story on the murder, I did mention that I now believed X to be a body, and that short yellow lines marked where head and feet had lain. That was on Friday August 31.
Now, September 5, there was another X, and two lines showing, presumably, head and feet. In all likelihood, this was an attempt to discredit the crime scene, an attempt to ensure enough doubt is cast on exactly which body lay where – and hence what the autopsy and forensics have to say about these bodies.
Dianne Kohler Barnard, the Democratic Alliance’s Shadow Minister of Police, says “There is this whole structure of protecting your back within the SAPS. The SAPS protect SAPS, which is why they are incapable of investigating themselves. They will always cover up. There will always be someone covering up.
“If we find that now police have been interfering with the marking to blur or interfere with the investigation, then this is the first time that the full might of the IPID legislation must come to bear.” Kohler Barnard added that interfering with an IPID investigation carried a two-year jail sentence.
The Centre for Applied Legal Studies attorney Kathleen Hardy was at Small Koppie and said, “We are concerned about what has occurred at the scene. The reasons for the changes to the markings need to be established to avoid any later irregularities and to uphold the integrity of the investigations. This is especially so, considering allegations already made surrounding contamination of the scenes. This is imperative in determining what happened on the day.”
Let us look at a good faith possibility: the police do not want potential witnesses influenced by media reports relating to the letters.
I cannot imagine a second good faith possibility. There are two malign possibilities I can imagine here. One is that the police want to deny attorneys or experts representing families of the deceased access to knowledge they might need.
Another is that they want to destroy the links in the chain of evidence linking the bodies and ballistic and other evidence found to individual policemen. This would make it very difficult for a court to find beyond reasonable doubt that a specific individual was guilty of specific crime.
But this surely is nonsense. The crime scene has already been secured, weeks ago, and the evidence is all safely stashed at… police laboratories. And the autopsies? Well, we simply don’t know in whose hands they are.
The Centre for Applied Legal Studies’ Bonita Meyersfeld: “The IPID is mandated to investigate police misconduct. The IPID has reportedly undertaken an investigation, but questions arise as to the extent of that investigation. The reality is that the police are responsible for investigating a crime scene in which they are complicit; who is monitoring that investigation?”
Should we fear for the integrity of the evidence and the dockets? We urgently need the police, and the state, to allow independent oversight of this crucial investigation. We need this to be public. If we are to restore hope in South Africa’s future, we need to restore faith in the forces of law and order, as well as the justice system. That is not negotiable. DM
After the publication of this article, I have discovered that the ‘second’ X I thought had been added some three weeks after the killings at Small Koppie, was in fact an original marking from the 16th August massacre. This has been verified by a photograph taken by a researcher. I apologise for the error. (Greg Marinovich)
All photos: All but one letter at Small Koppie had been altered or defaced. A new marking was added further to the west, marked with the letter X. This had not been at the scene at any previous time. Small Koppie, Marikana, North West province, September 5, 2012. Photos by Greg Marinovich.
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