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Pretoria - Evidence leaders have concerns about evidence supplied by police to the Farlam Commission of Inquiry, senior evidence leader Geoff Budlender, SC, said on Wednesday.
“It is a matter for the [SA Police Service] to respond. It is not as though the evidence leaders have reached a conclusion, we have very serious concerns. We have identified certain of them and we continue to identify them as we go along,” he said.
“Certain of the matters which have given us cause for concern will be raised in the further cross-examination of [Lieutenant] Colonel Duncan Scott,” said Budlender.
In response, Ishmael Semenya, SC, for the police, said the evidence leaders’ concerns would be addressed in writing.
“About [suggestions] the police’s version being untrue, I do not hear any answer about it. It was very definitive, it was said and it was not made lightly, it was considered and it was said the version of the SAPS is untrue,” said Semenya.
Commission chairman, retired judge Ian Farlam, said Budlender had indicated that the contested issues would become clearer during further cross-examination of Scott, currently on the witness stand.
Budlender said he would also communicate with the police attorneys and point out to them the parts which had caused concern.
“Some of it will become clear from the cross-examination and we are happy to communicate further with our colleagues to tell them where our concerns are if it’s not sufficiently clear, he said.
When the public hearings resumed on Wednesday morning, police representatives protested about “damning” statements attributed to Budlender.
Semenya said Budlender's statements that the police evidence to the commission was untrue caused “grave concern”.
“The concern is grave because the evidence leaders are an extension of the commission. They have been appointed by the commission and they do their work for the commission.
“A pronouncement that documents they [evidence leaders] have demonstrate that a version we [the police] placed before this commission respects not the truth is very damning.”
Semenya invited Budlender and the evidence leading team to identify the documents which inspired that opinion.
“They must also identify which of the SAPS witnesses at this commission are demonstrated to have been untruthful to this commission. We think we deserve that and that will inform our clients with regards to their conduct at these proceedings,” he said.
Earlier this month, Budlender sought a postponement of the public hearings to enable the evidence leaders to work through new material running into thousands of pages.
In his statement, Budlender said the new material had been made available by the police and its legal team to explain certain matters.
The statement read: “In the past 10 days we have discovered through the evidence leaders that there must be info that was not disclosed by the police that seeks to suggest that the information was withheld to try and portray a certain approach to the commission in relation to what has been discovered.”
During Budlender's submissions he stated that in the opinion of the evidence leaders some of the documents demonstrated that the police version of events at Marikana, and the evidence of police witnesses at the commission, were in material respects not the truth.
Farlam said that might not be so. Budlender said this was for the commission, and not the evidence leaders, to decide.
In granting the postponement sought, which neither the police nor any of the other parties present opposed, Farlam said: “I think it appropriate to place on record these are at the moment only concerns.
“There are no findings made, these are matters that have to be looked at, and we don't know what the results of the examination of these points will be. But clearly from what you tell us, these are matters that require careful consideration, which I am sure they will receive.”
The commission, sitting in Centurion, is investigating the deaths of 44 people during strike-related unrest at Lonmin's platinum mining operations at Marikana, near Rustenburg, North West, last year.
Police shot dead 34 people, almost all striking miners, while trying to disperse and disarm them on August 16, 2012. Ten people, including two police officers and two security guards, were killed in the preceding week.
President Jacob Zuma established the commission shortly after the unrest.