Marikana: Riah Phiyega ‘forgets’ crucial events

2014-09-10 15:52

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National Police Commissioner Riah Phiyega could not remember many of the conversations she had on the days leading up to August 16 2012 at the Marikana Commission.

Retired Judge Ian Farlam today explained to Phiyega that he has numerous questions based on testimony and evidence led after she completed her testimony last year.

The commissioner asked Phiyega if she remembered receiving a text message at 4.02pm from her provincial police commissioner Zukiswa Mbombo on the day 34 miners were killed. Farlam wanted to know what the SMS contained.

“You are talking about matters that took place two years ago. I spoke to Mbombo, the minister, I spoke to many people. The details of those calls I cannot recall,” said Phiyega.

The police commissioner was also asked about an extraordinary meeting held on August 15 2012, in which she, Mbombo and other top cops agreed that the plan should be implemented the next day.

Farlam wanted to know what was discussed that day and how the top cops had agreed to implement the plan, which led to the death of 34 miners in Marikana.

“Are you telling the commission that none of the experienced police officials present at the meeting raised cautionary notes of the risk of bloodshed? “There was a lot that was unprecedented about this strike as 10 people were already dead and the information that you had was that you were dealing with people who did not hesitate to murder.

“The fact that people there all agreed to make resources available as required surely means they cannot evade responsibility. I expected one or two people at that meeting to say ‘hang on, let us interrogate this proposal’. You can’t remember anybody doing that?” asked Farlam.

Phiyega repeatedly said that there was no way she could remember everything that was discussed during the meeting that Mbombo had said took about an hour.

“The meeting was not meant to discuss the plan in detail, but it was about getting feedback and what the plans would be looking at going forward,” she replied.

From Phiyega’s evidence, it was clear that the police had endorsed the dispersion plan without discussing it the day before it was to be implemented.

It was also revealed at the commission today that no mention was made in the meeting about the police’s presentation, which was handed over to the commission at the beginning of the proceedings.

This meeting was also not included in the hard drive the police handed over. This hard drive contained all documents that were relevant for the work of the commission.

Farlam asked if this failure to provide the information to the commission could be seen as the failure of the police to fully cooperate with the commission. Phiyega said it must have only been an omission and the meeting was never a secret.

Another “omission” Phiyega was asked about was the review panel, which she was asked about last year.

“On day 76 you were asked specifically by [Advocate Dumisa] Ntsebeza if you knew about the panel. I take it you knew about the panel because it was to advise you. You said no. It was revealed later that the panel did exist. Can you explain why you gave the response you did?” asked Farlam

“It could have been an omission,” said Phiyega.

Farlam went a step further and showed the commission an instruction notice signed on August 21 by Phiyega requesting the review panel.

Farlam continued to grill Phiyega about Cees de Rover, an international policing expert hired by the police. De Rover had testified that he had advised Phiyega that the use of R5 rifles was completely unacceptable by international standards. But the police force was still using of the firearms.

Phiyega said that she did not remember a meeting where De Rover gave all this advice.

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