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Rustenburg - The shooting at Marikana, in North West, in August was regrettable, national police commissioner Riah Phiyega told the Farlam Commission of Inquiry on Thursday.
“The events at Marikana in August 2012 are of concern to me as well,” Phiyega, who was dressed in a black skirt-suit, said as she sat composed at the witness desk reading her statement.
“The protracted and ever-increasing violent protest at Marikana, which culminated in the catastrophic and unprecedented loss of life, is to me regrettable.”
Phiyega was giving evidence before the commission on the role played by the police in the events leading up to and on August 16 last year.
On that day, 34 striking mineworkers were shot dead and 78 were injured when the police opened fire near Lonmin's platinum mine in Marikana. Ten people, including two police officers and two security guards, were killed near the mine in the preceding week.
Phiyega said the North West police commissioner called her on August 13 and said a “situation had developed” at the Marikana
mine, where four people, including two security guards, had died.
“This necessitated the deployment of more police officers to keep the peace.”
Phiyega said she was advised that the “violence had escalated” and had resulted in the deaths of five people, including two police officers. The nine deaths were “sufficiently grave” to cause her to go to Marikana on the same day, the commission heard.
Accompanied by the Gauteng police commissioner, she arrived in Marikana at 6pm and was briefed by the provincial police about the protests. They went to the offices of Lonmin and met a mine delegation.
“The mine management informed the SAPS (the SA Police Service) delegation that there were ongoing clashes between the members of two labour unions, Amcu (the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union) and NUM (the National Union of Mineworkers),” she read.
“The management further stated that the protesters were not their employees and are unknown to them and that, as such, Lonmin found no reason to negotiate with what they referred to as faceless people.”
Phiyega instructed the North West commissioner to continue efforts to “bring competing unions to the negotiating table” to end the violence.
In operations from 2009 to 2012, the police had handled 33 521 public order incidents, of which 3195 were not peaceful.
“The police provide services that are underpinned by tested structure, management and strategies in law enforcement and public order policing,” Phiyega said.
“The events at Marikana have no precedent in the history of our organisation in democratic South Africa.”
She said the national ratio of police to the population was one officer for every 306 people.
About 70 percent of the police's R63 billion budget was spent on human resources, Phiyega said.
Before lunch, the police's chief legal adviser sat next to Phiyega to help her page through documents, but the evidence leaders objected. They said it seemed as if the adviser was whispering to her.
Before she could continue testifying about what happened on August 14, the commission adjourned for lunch.
The hearings continue. - Sapa