Marikana not my turf, Phiyega tells inquiry
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Pretoria – The intervention of national police commissioner Riah Phiyega at the Marikana unrest in North West was restricted due to strict provisions of the SA Police Service Act which prohibits her from circumventing provincial police chiefs, the Claassen board of inquiry probing her fitness for office heard on Thursday.
“If the national commissioner was not authorised, in the absence of a directive from the president in terms of the SAPS Act, we submit that the national commissioner could not assume control and management of the police function in Marikana, in that period,” Phiyega’s counsel, Advocate Mahlape Sello, told the inquiry in Pretoria.
“If she did, notwithstanding the fact that she is not so authorised in terms of Section 17 (of SAPS Act), then she would have exceeded her powers. She would have contravened the provisions of Section 17 and Section 12. Most importantly, she would have offended the provisions of Section 207 (4) of the Constitution.”
Sello said it was critical to understand the provisions of the SAPS Act. She said the unrest started off as a strike, followed by public disorder, and then deaths started occurring in the area.
“As the events started, it was a public order policing function and that was directly under the (then North West) provincial commissioner Zukiswa Mbombo. As matters developed and the issue of her capacity to deal with what was transpiring, it became incumbent upon her to engage her national commissioner and to advise that she doubted that she had the capacity to address the problem,” said Sello.
“When that happens, the responsibility arises on the part of the national commissioner to assist her to the extent that the law requires. What the law doesn’t require of her, is to take over the functions of the provincial commissioner unless she is so directed by the president.”
Sello said no evidence has been put before the Claassen board of inquiry proving that Phiyega had been directed to take over the overall police functions at Marikana.
Phiyega is facing questions over her role as national police chief during the Marikana unrest, where 34 people, mostly striking mineworkers from the Lonmin mine, were shot dead in a clash with police on August 16, 2012.
More than 70 people were wounded, and 250 were arrested at the company’s platinum mining operations in Marikana, near Rustenburg. In the preceding week, 10 people, including two policemen and two Lonmin security guards, were killed there in strike-related violence.
President Jacob Zuma set up the Claassen board of inquiry into Phiyega’s fitness to hold office in September, in line with a recommendations by the Farlam commission which investigated the Marikana shooting.
Phiyega’s actions prior to and on the day of the August 16 incident, believed to be the biggest loss of life in a single police operation in post-apartheid South Africa, was heavily criticised by the Farlam commission.
Zuma released the report of the Farlam commission in June last year. It recommended an inquiry into Phiyega’s fitness to hold office after faulting the police’s “tactical” plan to deal with the striking miners.
Claassen chairs the three-member board, assisted by advocates Bernard Khuzwayo and Anusha Rawjee.African News Agency