Marikana: Families walk out on Phiyega

2013-05-23 15:07

The families of mine workers killed during the Marikana unrest walked out of the Marikana Commission of Inquiry during the continued cross-examination of national police commissioner General Riah Phiyega.

The families stood up and walked out of the Rustenburg Civic Centre when Phiyega repeatedly failed to answer questions about video footage played to the commission today.

The footage, which was taken on the day police shot dead 34 striking mine workers, showed police jogging forward and forming a line.

Dali Mpofu, for the miners who were wounded and arrested that day, asked Phiyega what was happening in the footage.

“I can’t say which way they are moving, whether they are moving in or out,” she said.

Mpofu asked that several clips from the footage be played to the commission.

In one, a police official is heard screaming “cease fire”, but gunshots continue to ring out in the background. Another police official is heard shouting, “We’ll shoot you.”

Mpofu asked whether this was an example of responsible policing.

Phiyega said that just because the police had not immediately stopped shooting, did not mean they were not being compliant.

She said the video should be viewed in context and that the commission should remember the “spirit of what was happening”.

She refused to say whether the comment by the police official was irresponsible.

“The context and situation doesn’t allow me to judge that,” she said.

Mpofu said he would submit that Phiyega was evading the questions.

In the clip, police are seen removing weapons from some of the miners lying on the ground, some of whom are presumably dead.

It is unclear whether medical personnel are on the scene, as none are visible in the footage.

In earlier cross-examination, Phiyega told the commission the weapons were removed for the safety of the paramedics.

On Thursday, she said she could not say whether paramedics were already at the scene when the weapons were removed.

She denied that the police’s removal of the weapons could be taken as tampering with the a crime scene.

“No. Some people were still alive. Me and you, at face value cannot say whether they were alive or dead. The ... issue of danger would have still been present,” she said.

In the clip, police are seen dragging people from the scene. A police official is seen placing a boot on the head of one protester.

When the video was first played, Phiyega said the boot was placed above the person’s head and not on top of him.

But when the video was played again, Phiyega acknowledged that the boot was on the person’s head.

She said the commission should remember that the police officials deployed to Marikana had worked under difficult circumstances.

The commission, chaired by retired Judge Ian Farlam, is investigating the circumstances surrounding the deaths of 44 people during the Marikana unrest last year.

Police shot dead 34 striking mine workers on August 16. Ten people, including two police officers, were killed in the preceding week.

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