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Complaint to HRC over handling of mine protest

The Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) is to investigate a complaint against national police commissioner General Riah Phiyega relating to the police’s handling of the Lonmin Marikana mine protests.

Since the death of 34 striking miners, several commentators and politicians have called for the resignations of Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa and Phiyega.

National police commissioner Riah Phiyega. Credit: INLSA

SAHRC spokesman Isaac Mangena confirmed that a Cape Town-based NGO had laid a complaint against Phiyega.

“The complainant argues that the right to life of the miners as enshrined in our constitution has been infringed. We will look into this complaint. We are looking at the options available, because there are already top-level investigations going on,” Mangena said.

he SAHRC had been in Marikana, he said. It had met the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid), and was keen to assist the judicial commission of inquiry and the inter-ministerial task team.

National police spokesman Dennis Adriao would not confirm whether police were aware of the SAHRC complaint.

“We’re not allowed to talk anymore about the events on that day. From our side, we want to see the outcome of the commission of inquiry and the Ipid investigation. Our statement is that police acted in self-defence,” Adriao said.

Meanwhile, Bench Marks Foundation researcher David van Wyk believes the judicial commission of inquiry’s terms of reference are too narrow. “It is short-sighted. If you don’t look at the entire industry, you will have a repetition of Marikana in the next six months.”

Van Wyk compiled a 167-page report on conditions at platinum mines in the Bonjanala District, North West, which painted a disturbing picture of living conditions at mines in the area, and of impoverished communities getting poorer.

At the Lonmin mine, the study raised concerns about slum-like living conditions, the lack of proper sewerage systems which lead to water being contaminated by bilharzia, and the lack of community investment.

The commission, which is headed by retired Supreme Court of Appeal Judge Ian Farlam, will probe the conduct of Lonmin, the police, the National Union of Mineworkers and the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union.

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