Phiyega sticks to her Marikana guns

North West

Rustenburg - National police chief Riah Phiyega was accused on Tuesday of having rushed to issue a news statement to absolve police from the shootings at Marikana, North West, last year.

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Honourable Judge Ian Gordon Farlam  during the public hearing of the Marikana Commission of Enquiry to investigate the Marikana tragedy. File picture: Dumisani SibekoU GENERAL Riah Phiyega

Evidence leader Mbuyiseli Madlanga also suggested the statement was not well-considered.

Phiyega replied: “I stand by my statement.”

She was testifying in Rustenburg at the Farlam Commission of Inquiry into the shooting that claimed the lives of 34 miners.

“The impression I get is that you rushed to issue a press statement that absolved the police service from any wrongdoing, without knowing other versions,” Madlanga said.

“On a matter of such gravity - unprecedented as you call it - you should have taken time to consider what others that had knowledge of what had taken place had to say on the subject. Did you not consider that?”

Phiyega responded: “Our statement and the facts it had was well considered, and it was important to us as the SA Police Service to give an account as of the 17th of what we have observed had happened, and that is the statement we gave.”

But Madlanga said only two of the officers who helped compile the statement were “on the ground” when the shooting took place.

Phiyega said the statement was compiled by commanders from the joint operations centre.

“To the best of my knowledge and information what we presented on the 17th were the facts,” Phiyega said.

She said if new facts were available, it should first have been presented to her before she considered it.

Madlanga continued to read a statement from officer Hendrich Wouter Myburgh, who said he heard a gunshot on the day and when he turned around he saw a constable put back his firearm and say “they deserved to die”.

The commission heard the constable could not be identified or named.

Phiyega said she and the commanders wanted to understand what had happened, but Myburgh could not give them more details to find or identify the person.

On August 17, Phiyega said police officers had to “employ force to protect themselves” from the group of miners.

She said: “The militant group stormed towards the police firing shots and wielding dangerous weapons, and the police retreated and were forced to utilise maximum force to defend themselves.”

Thursday last week was the first time Phiyega gave evidence 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. - Sapa

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