Nathi Mthethwa: Riah Phiyega didn’t give details of Marikana police plan

2014-07-14 18:23

Former police minister Nathi Mthethwa has denied any knowledge of the SA Police Service’s plan for the miners on August 16 2012.

Mthethwa, who is currently the arts and culture minister, is testifying before the Marikana Commission of Inquiry.

He told the commission Police Commissioner Riah Phiyega did not tell him the police would be moving to tactical phase 3 to remove the miners from the koppie.

During a joint operational coordinating committee meeting on August 16, it was decided to proceed with phase 3 of the plan hatched by Lieutenant-Colonel Duncan Scott. The meeting minutes say Phiyega was supposed to inform the minister. Mthethwa said Phiyega did not tell him because he was not usually involved in such operational matters.

But Judge Ian Farlam asked how that could be when the situation in Marikana was no ordinary strike.

“You in fact telephoned the provincial commissioner for an update of the situation. But once the police decided that they are going to disarm these strikers and that was a situation with potential risks, you did not enquire.

“There would surely be nothing wrong if the commissioner kept you up to date and that is what you wanted. If I was minister of police I would expect the commissioner to let me know if they were going to move to the tactical phase,” said Farlam.

During cross examination, Advocate Dumisa Ntsebeza, representing the families of the deceased, accused Mthethwa of dereliction of duty for not asking what the details of the plan, that left 34 miners dead, would be.

“You were aware that police units carrying R1 and R5 rifles, what are called military weapons, were to be deployed. After the 13th, after members of the police service were killed, it became a matter of concern for you.

“Are you saying to the commission that you didn’t want to know the details of how this matter was going to be contained, weapons to be used in order to contain the situation?” asked Ntsebeza.

“It was brought to my attention that there would be deployment of members of SAPS. But I never enquired who would be there. The main issue for me was that we needed police on the ground,” said Mthethwa.

The minister also denied ever influencing the police commissioners or bringing any undue political pressure on anyone. He said he was never pressured, either. It has been alleged through evidence that Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa had pressured the minister to take “pointed action” against the strikers and end the strike.

“I am not sure I have ever been in a situation where somebody would put pressure on me, on my job. They (Ramaphosa) raised it as a concern and I took it that way.

“I said to the provincial commissioner (Zukiswa Mbombo) that I had been talking to Ramaphosa and [National Union of Mineworkers President Senzeni] Zokwana and as far they are concerned, the police are not adequate on the ground.

“I wouldn’t know where the word pressure comes from. The two were people who were concerned,” said Mthethwa.

But evidence before the commission shows a different picture. Mbombo was recorded speaking to Lonmin executives where she mentioned that she had spoken to Mthethwa.

“But when I was speaking to the minister Mthethu [Mthethwa] he mentions a name to me that is also calling him, that is pressurising him. Unfortunately it is a politically high [name]” it reads.

Today at the commission, Mbombo sat behind Mthethwa as he denied what she had once said. She sat still, staring at the screen with the transcripts in question.

Mthethwa will continue to testify tomorrow under cross examination by Ntsebeza.

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