U GENERAL Riah Phiyega
U GENERAL Riah Phiyega

Mpofu grills police boss on Marikana

By Naledi Mailula Time of article published Jun 7, 2013

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Pretoria - Lawyer Dali Mpofu finished weeks of cross-examination of national police commissioner Riah Phiyega at the Farlam Commission of Inquiry on Thursday.

While Phiyega had hoped it would be her last day at the commission, sitting in Centurion, its chairman, retired judge Ian Farlam, told her she would have to appear again next week to be cross-examined by another lawyer.

This would be followed by her re-examination by Ishmael Semenya, who is appearing for the police.

The commission is investigating the circumstances surrounding the deaths of 44 people - including 34 at the hands of the police - during strike-related violence at Lonmin's platinum mine in Marikana last year.

Mpofu, who represents the miners who were wounded and arrested in the violence, accused Phiyega of being deceitful in accepting her commanders' reasons why the police plan resulted in deaths.

He said she had also failed to properly investigate claims that the police planted weapons on some of the miners after shooting them.

“The South African public deserves a national commissioner who'll satisfy them in proving that the weapons were planted by her subordinates,” he said.

Phiyega dismissed the criticism as invalid. “I did an investigation, of which I acquired expert advice,” she said.

She told the commission one of the experts she appointed to investigate was a top detective, and that she had accepted his report.

Mpofu said the wounded miners were lucky to have survived. He said the police had tried to murder them when they shot at them.

“You insensitively described the incident as the best of responsible policing,” he said.

He told the commission two of Phiyega's predecessors had been removed from office for issues far less serious than the deaths of 34 people.

Mpofu accused Phiyega of giving her blessing to the implementation of stage three of the police's plan, at a time when the police had a false perception of the matter at hand.

Earlier, Mpofu told the commission the police had been unable to roll out a suitable plan as they did not have the right diagnosis for the problem.

“If I can prove at the end that there was a series of misdiagnosis of the situation, then the police's plan was doomed to fail,” he said.

He submitted that the police had not appropriately addressed the situation as they had believed the unrest was largely associated with union rivalry. Workers were also demanding higher wages.

He and Phiyega spent a large amount of time debating at what point the police were informed of the underlying wage issues associated with the strike.

Phiyega said she knew there was a matter regarding R12 500. “Whether it was a wage dispute or anything, I don't know,” she said.

Mpofu asked her whether she believed the unrest was a wage-related matter in which criminal activity had surfaced.

He referred her to a statement by ANC deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa, whose company Shanduka owns shares in Lonmin, in which he acknowledged having sent an email to Lonmin the day before the fatal police shooting.

“The terrible events that have unfolded cannot be described as a labour dispute. They are plainly dastardly criminal and must be characterised as such,” Ramaphosa wrote.

“In line with this characterisation, there needs to be concomitant action to address the situation.”

Mpofu said this was sent the day Mineral Resources Minister Susan Shabangu labelled the matter a labour dispute.

President Jacob Zuma later described the situation in a manner that suggested it was a hybrid of labour and crime.

Phiyega said the police had viewed the matter as a law and order issue when they went to Marikana.

Mpofu said he was pursuing the angle that there was a campaign to characterise it as solely criminal, because Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa had said maximum force could be used only if this was the case.

During his cross-examination, Mpofu also accused Phiyega of failing to apologise for the incidents in Marikana.

“You haven't said sorry. All you have said is that you never said that you are not sorry,” he said.

The commission resume on Friday, with the testimony of Major-General William Mpembe. - Sapa

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