Marikana: Police Commissioner Phiyega is losing her credibility fast

2013-10-01 00:00

I DON’T take our Police Commissioner Riah Phiyega very seriously. She has been found wanting far too many a time; I think in the eyes of many she has lost credibility. And she thinks a lie told many times may eventually turn into the truth.

Just recently, it emerged that her subjects, the police, hid evidence from judge Ian Farlam’s commission of inquiry into the Marikana tragedy — they tried to hide evidence of their dirty deeds in Marikana.

The commission was postponed two weeks ago, after computer files containing evidence connected to the shootings were found in the computer deleted bin of one of the officers who was to testify at the inquiry.

But during a recent TV interview, Phiyega was again in denial, a trademark she’s fast getting known for. She pleaded innocence and ranted about her police officers being truthful, saying they have co-operated with the commission, and that they have never, and will never, deceive the Farlam inquiry.

Bad public relations, if she asks me. People are not stupid.

What is she saying; that there was no new evidence? Or that the new evidence found in the computer bin was nothing but pictures of police officers enjoying a picnic?

Phiyega should stop defending the indefensible. She should have been shocked like all of us, and told the public: “We have noted the reports coming out of the commission of inquiry. It’s shocking and concerning to us, especially myself as the head of the police. I have since ordered an internal investigation into these allegations, which we are taking very seriously.

“If the allegation turn out to be true, and someone within the service indeed lied and concealed evidence that could help the commission of inquiry in its investigation to get to the bottom of this matter, that person will be dealt with harshly.”

There. Wouldn’t that be the true character of a good leader? Maybe Phiyega’s advisors told her to take a leaf out of Hitler’s book and “make a lie big, make it simple, keep saying it, and eventually they will believe it.”

Well, it may have worked for Hitler, but some of us are starting to see through Phiyega and are starting to lose all that respect we had when she first got the job.

If these new revelations are true, it would mean Phiyega and the police officers lied under oath — the same oath they were taught at college to uphold. Misleading or attempting to mislead the commission of inquiry set up by the president of the country amounts to perjury. In other countries, it is punishable by a heavy sentence.

Already her evidence at the commission has been regarded as unreliable by lawyers and many others at the inquiry. The inquiry is an important process that Phiyega should respect, as the other participants do. It is more than just about finding the guilt or innocence of people.

She has been labelled “insensitive”, “unreliable”, “arrogant”, etc.

Regardless of the evidence presented, she continues to deny her statements that were recorded on video. Some of the evidence includes the evidence given by a member of the police, who was present in Marikana on August 16, and who contradicted Phiyega’s testimony.

The officer, known as Myburgh, provided an account of “an event he witnessed which can only be described as an execution-style killing of a wounded miner at the hands of a police officer.”

But for Phiyega, it was difficult to tell the commission the truth, despite the fact that she had, according to Myburgh, met him in October 2012, when Myburgh told her about what happened in Marikana. We all know that she told the commission everything happened in “self-defence”.

“At best, the national commissioner was dishonest in saying that she had received no information to cause her to question the truth of her press statement that the police had acted only in self-defence.

“At worst, the fact that the police have never mentioned this evidence is indicative of a deliberate cover-up,” said the director of the Centre for Applied Legal Studies, Bonita Meyersfeld, afterwards.

Another contradiction that may turn into a lie if proved by the new evidence is her denial that the police filmed some of the killings.

She told the commission that the police video operators had to withdraw because they were being called “police spies”, placing their lives in danger, she said.

And she added that the helicopter used had technical glitches. She would not elaborate to Farlam on the kind of glitches it had, or on a mechanical report obtained thereafter.

Phiyega has a chance to redeem what’s left of her reputation. She should launch her own investigation to find out if evidence was deleted or concealed from the commission for over a year to allow police officers to fabricate their own story.

She should then ensure that the person responsible is dealt with accordingly, and is banned from serving the public in future.

Unless, of course, Phiyega is party to this cover-up. In which case, she should do to herself what she did to Mondli Zuma — who was given his marching orders for not being honest.

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