Family members walk out of Marikana hearing

2013-04-18 13:46

Emotional family members of the victims of the Marikana shootings walked out of the proceedings of a commission investigating the deaths of their loved ones during cross-examination of National Police Commissioner Riah Phiyega.

Others sat with their heads bowed, quietly battling tears, as their lawyer, Dumisa Ntsebeza, probed Phiyega about statements she had made in the days after police shot and killed 34 mine workers.

Ntsebeza argued that Phiyega had made a statement commending police conduct during the botched operation on August 16 because she had only been in office for 63 days and had to be seen to be taking a position.

On August 20, Phiyega told police officers at a parade in Marikana that they had displayed “responsible policing” and that they should applaud themselves. Phiyega had also expressed sympathy and offered condolences to the families.

But in a statement read out by Ntsebeza on behalf of the families, they rejected Phiyega’s condolences, saying it was insincere and demanded a full apology.

On her first day before the commission on March 14, Phiyega again repeated her expression of condolences which led to one of the relatives of the deceased mine workers breaking down.

Ntsebeza identified the woman as Songstress Nothukile Nkonyeni, sister of Phumzile Sokhanyile, who was shot dead, allegedly by police on August 13.

Ntsebeza said Sokhanyile’s mother suffered a heart attack and died upon hearing of his death last year, and that her sister, who is one of the 11 people he was supporting, could not understand how Phiyega could praise police for killing her brother.

“We can flog this thing up and down, negatively and positively. I have feelings, and I understand and my apology was very, very considered. Police shall never applaud death. I did not applaud death, neither did I ask the police to applaud death, and you being the representative of the family may assist us even further to take to the family my sincere condolences to the families,” Phiyega said in response.

This prompted some of the family members to break down and leave the auditorium. Social workers attended to the grief-stricken women, one of them still dressed in the traditional black mourning dress.

Ntsebeza said his probing was not an attempt to sensationalise the matter.

“My apology was sincere. You want to make it as negative as you want to make it ...” replied Phiyega.

The hearing continues.

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