Phiyega had 'tough luck' attitude: Commission hears

By Drum Digital
18 April 2013

National police commissioner Riah Phiyega showed a "tough luck" attitude to families of the dead Marikana workers, the Farlam Commission of Inquiry heard on Thursday.

"The families of the deceased understand that you think those who were killed were not angels, and that police were protecting themselves. If any of those miners died in the process, tough luck," Dumisa Ntsebeza, for the families of the miners police shot dead, put it to Phiyega.

"Words such as tough luck were far from the statement I made," Phiyega responded, in rejecting the statement.

"As a leader, I had no intention of applauding death; neither did I ask the police to applaud the tragedy," she said.

Ntsebeza asked Phiyega why she told police to applaud themselves four days after the Marikana shooting, in which 34 people were killed on August 16.

"What I [was] saying was that you've been here many days, worked overtime -- day and night -- and we've experienced this tragedy. They were equally traumatised like all citizens. They too needed to be spoken to.

"The nation was mourning, we were mourning too. The de-contextualising of what I said [telling police to applaud themselves] is the saddest thing of this commission. Being a human being, I would never applaud death."

Ntsebeza said his clients rejected Phiyega's apology because they felt it was insincere.

About eight relatives of the dead miners walked out of the auditorium while Phiyega was answering Ntsebeza's questions. One of them cried hysterically.

Ntsebeza asked Phiyega whether she had perhaps felt under pressure to appease the police, and that was why she had endorsed their actions in public.

"You were under pressure following the largest post-apartheid massacre," said Ntsebeza.

Phiyega said she had not been under pressure and that this was his interpretation of her actions.

Ntsebeza pointed out that Phiyega was appointed commissioner just 65 days before the Marikana unrest. He said she had acted irresponsibly in the way she addressed the police after the shooting.

The commission, led by retired judge Ian Farlam and sitting in Rustenburg, is investigating the deaths of the 34 miners and those of 10 other people killed during protests the preceding week.

-by Sapa

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