Constitution remarks haunt Phiyega

2013-03-26 22:33
Riah Phiyega (Picture: AP)

Riah Phiyega (Picture: AP)

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Rustenburg - National police commissioner Riah Phiyega made derogatory comments about the South African Constitution during a radio interview, George Bizos SC, claimed on Tuesday at the Farlam Commission of Inquiry, in Rustenburg.

Bizos questioned Phiyega about comments she made during an interview with radio presenter Redi Thlabi.

In the interview, Phiyega said criminals in South Africa were "absolutely brazen, because we have a beautiful Constitution that allows rights".

Bizos said: "You were asked why the criminals behave in the manner in which they behave. You were not asked whether the Constitution was blue or white.

"Why did you say they are brazen? Because our Constitution allows rights?"

Phiyega replied: "What I said was that our country has a good Constitution."

Bizos: "No, you didn’t say that, national commissioner. Whose rights were you referring to, the criminals?"

Phiyega said: "I thought you asked me what I said."

The senior counsel went on: "This is not a classroom in which we play with words. Please answer the question...

"Did you ever believe that the Constitution... coddles criminals? Have any of your members expressed regret that the liberal Constitution that we have is responsible for the criminality that we have?"

Phiyega said she had not.

Bizos said many people were of the view that the rights afforded to criminals contributed to rampant crime.

Phiyega said she had heard those remarks, but did not agree with that line of thought.

Bizos said Phiyega’s statement about the Constitution was "derogatory in relation to our Constitution and the rights it guarantees to the people of South Africa".

The police chief disputed this.

Bizos said there were many reasons Phiyega could have listed for criminality in the country.

Scuffle

Citing former police commissioners Jackie Selebi and Bheki Cele, Bizos said the criminality within high-ranking police officers and police brutality could be the reasons for the rise in hard-core criminality.

"Couldn’t the criminality be a result of the inefficiency of the police force, as it was re-named? Couldn't it be that they are brazen [the criminals] because of the number of complaints received about police torture and ill-treatment of arrested persons?"

Phiyega disagreed.

Bizos then asked her how many people had been killed by the police in the past year.

"I can get those statistics," said Phiyega.

Bizos's cross-examination of Phiyega continues on Wednesday.

Earlier, a scuffle broke out between police officers and a group of protesters outside the Rustenburg Civic Centre, where the commission is holding its public hearings.

Police officers seized a stack of placards from a group of protesters during the lunch break.

The protesters shouted at the police officers, accusing them of murdering the Marikana mineworkers.

"Shoot us all. That is what you are used to," a woman shouted at the large contingent of police officers.

"You have murdered our brothers. Phiyega must say the truth," shouted another protester.

Most of the placards read: "Do not let police get away with murder".

A police officer took the stash of placards into a vehicle parked nearby.

Marikana Support Campaign spokesperson Rehad Desai said the protesters had been angered by the "evasive" evidence being given to the Farlam commission by Phiyega.

- SAPA

Read more on:    lonmin  |  police  |  george bizos  |  riah phiyega  |  mahikeng  |  marikana inquiry  |  mining unrest
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