JOHANNESBURG, South Africa — Photo and video evidence presented to a commission investigating the police shooting that left 34 striking miners dead strongly suggests that weapons were placed next to the bodies of dead miners, in an attempt to make it appear that the police had no choice but to fire on them, according to lawyers representing the families of the victims.
A commission of inquiry has been hearing testimony from police officials, mining companies, union leaders and witnesses to try to determine what happened on Aug. 16, when the police opened fire on platinum miners engaged in a wildcat strike for higher wages in Marikana, 80 miles northwest of Johannesburg.
The killings, so reminiscent of apartheid-era shootings of protesting activists, set off widespread outrage and copycat strikes at other mines.
In a detailed multimedia briefing the day after the shooting, police officials argued that the miners, many of them brandishing clubs, spears and machetes, had refused to turn back when fired upon with rubber bullets.
But investigations by local journalists — and now testimony and documentary evidence at the commission, lawyers contend — have suggested a far more sinister portrait of the events that unfolded that afternoon.
On Monday, gruesome images of the dead were shown as relatives looked on, sometimes in tears. One photograph showed the crumpled, bloody body of a miner next to a hunk of rock. In a police video taken during the day, nothing lies next to his outstretched right hand. But in a photograph taken in the dark, which lawyers say was taken later the same day, a machete with a yellow handle lies next to the man's hand.
"The evidence clearly showed there is at least a strong prima facie case that there has been an attempt to defeat the ends of justice," lawyer George Bizos, told the inquiry, the South Africa Press Association reported.