Police in Marikana covering up: SAHRC

By Drum Digital
23 March 2013

The police and their management are covering up events surrounding the Marikana shooting, the SA Humans Rights Council (SAHRC) claimed on Friday.

It accused national police commissioner Riah Phiyega of failing to mention a statement by police officer Hendrich Wouter Myburgh, which contradicted her assertion that police acted 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," SAHRC representative Bonita Meyersfeld, director of the Centre for Applied Legal Studies, said in a statement.

"At worst, the fact that the police have never mentioned this evidence is indicative of a deliberate cover-up."

Phiyega told the Farlam Commission of Inquiry investigating the events surrounding the shooting in North West on August 16 that she stood by her stance that police acted in self-defence when they shot the miners.

Approached for comment from Phiyega, her consultant Makhosini Nkosi indicated this would be forthcoming before the end of the afternoon.

However, no response had materialised by early evening.

During cross examination of Phiyega at the commission, evidence leader Mbuyiseli Madlanga read a statement into the record by Myburgh about the shooting.

Myburgh said that after most of the shooting had stopped, he found three wounded people on the ground on the hill and continued to search for "other suspects".

"I suddenly heard a gunshot behind me. As I turned, I saw a NIU [national intervention unit] constable who is unknown to me putting his side firearm in his leg holster while he was standing next to the injured...," he said in the statement.

"I asked him [the NIU] constable what is going on. He replied by saying: 'They deserve to die' and he moved away."

The commission heard that the constable could not be identified or named.

Madlanga asked Phiyega whether, if Myburgh's evidence was indeed true, she would continue holding the view that the officers fired shots in self-defence.

"I'm consistent in my view that, given the sensitivity of the issue... I would be very, very cautious to answer such a question... It is difficult to say on this or that hypothesis," answered Phiyega.

The commission's chairman, retired judge Ian Farlam, warned Phiyega that her "deliberate attempt to not answer a question" led to inferences being drawn.

Phiyega said she and her commanders had wanted to understand what had happened, but Myburgh could not give them more details to find or identify the NIU constable.

On August 16, 34 striking Lonmin mineworkers were shot dead and 78 were wounded when the police opened fire while trying to disperse a group which had gathered on a hill near Lonmin's platinum mine in Marikana.

Ten people, including two police officers and two security guards, were killed near the mine in the preceding week.

-Sapa

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