Pretoria - North West police chief Lt-Gen Zukiswa Mbombo conceded on Thursday that she made a blunder during a television interview about protests at Marikana.
She was cross-examined by evidence leaders' head Geoff Budlender, SC, at the Farlam Commission of Inquiry's public hearings in Pretoria.
Budlender asked Mbombo to explain why the police had prioritised “ending” the strike.
He played the video recording of August 16, 2012, in which Mbombo says in an interview with broadcaster eNCA: “The plan is that we intend to ensure that today we end this strike. We intend to make sure that we end it in the best way we can, in an amicable solution.”
Mbombo agreed with Budlender when he put it to her that it was not supposed to be the police's major concern, whether the strike continued or not.
“It is important that when someone in a very senior position like yours, speaks to the public on television, you must choose your words carefully. I am sure you agree with me that the matter of the strike was between Lonmin and its employees,” said Budlender.
“Why did you say to the TV interviewer and to the world at large that as the SAPS (SA Police Service), today we intend to end this strike?” Mbombo said her intention was not to end the strike.
“It was a slip of the tongue, it was not our intention to end the strike.
“Our goal was to end the violence that was going together with the strike,” she said.
Budlender said it was difficult to understand how Mbombo had such an important slip of the tongue.
“There is a fundamental difference between the strike and the violence. How could you say we are going to end the strike?”
The police chief insisted it was “a slip of the tongue”.
“I am not sure now how I can explain the slipping of my tongue,” she said.
Inquiry chairman, retired judge Ian Farlam, then questioned Mbombo about the blunder. He asked her to explain when she realised that she had made the error.
Mbombo responded: “I cannot remember exactly when it was. They (eNCA) kept on playing it on television. In those days I was not really watching TV.”
Farlam also asked Mbombo to explain if she issued any corrective statements when she realised she had made the mistake.
She said she did not.
On August 16, 2012, 34 people, mostly striking miners, were shot dead and 78 people were wounded when the police fired on a group gathered at a hill near Lonmin's platinum mining operations in Marikana, near Rustenburg while trying to disperse and disarm them.
In the preceding week, 10 people, including two policemen and two security guards, were killed in strike-related violence. - Sapa