Rustenburg - The SA Council of Churches (SACC) president on Friday apologised for his remarks that police officers could not be trusted.
“I did not mean all police officers in SA are untrustworthy. If those (officers killed) were your members I would apologise about that,” Bishop Johannes Seoka said during cross examination at the Farlam commission of inquiry in Rustenburg.
Advocate Louis Gumbi, representing the Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union (Popcru), said Seoka's statement was “the biggest setback” in the fight against crime. He said the widows of the two policeman killed at Marikana were in the public gallery and their husbands had been their breadwinners. He gave Seoka statistics on the number of police officers slain since 2005.
“Don't you think the best [thing to do] is to retract that statement and apologise to those widows and children of those killed in the line of duty?” Gumbi asked him.
He was asked by advocate Dali Mpofu, representing the injured and arrested miners, what he thought about policing in South Africa and the changes made since 1994.
“A lot has changed with the police since 1994, but there are still elements of the old system and that is the problem,” he replied.
Seoka narrated to the commission how a police officer investigating the killing of someone close to him later asked to “borrow” R15 000. The investigation of the matter had stalled. “I could give many more examples,” he said.
Mpofu led Seoka in giving evidence on why he chose to become involved in the Marikana issue.
“Creating a peaceful atmosphere was all that I was concerned with,” Seoka said.
He wanted to intervene in the unrest at the Gold Fields mine in Carletonville as well.
The three-member commission, led by retired judge Ian Farlam, was announced by President Jacob Zuma in August. The other commissioners are senior advocates Bantubonke Tokota and Pingla Hemraj. Its mandate is to probe the mine violence in which 44 people died during wage-related protests at Marikana, North West.
Thirty-four striking miners were shot dead on August 16 and 78 wounded when police tried to disperse a group who had gathered on a hill near the mine. In the preceding week, 10 people, including two police officers and two security guards, were killed at the Lonmin platinum mine.
Zuma said the commission would complete its work within four months, and had to submit its final report a month later.