Phiyega didn't know Marikana plan

2013-03-27 21:31
Riah Phiyega (File: AP)

Riah Phiyega (File: AP)

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Rustenburg - National police chief Riah Phiyega was not in on a police plan to quell labour turbulence at Marikana mines, the Farlam Commission heard on Wednesday.

She revealed this while being cross-examined before the commission of inquiry into the events in North West in which the police shot dead 34 miners last year.

George Bizos SC, for the Legal Resources Centre and the Bench Marks Foundation, asked Phiyega: "Did you authorise the actions that were taken by the police on 16 August? Did you know the plan and the strategy and did you approve of it?"

She responded: "I did not participate in the plan. Those that had the responsibility to do so did. I did not know it."

Bizos asked: "You plead ignorance?"

The police commissioner said the command on the Marikana situation was handled by senior officers at a security joint operation command (JOC) centre.

"I know that there are people who must do the plan and they know the intricacies of it. These are the people who were in the JOC. I did not have to know those details," she said.

Bizos said: "Did you know the strategy was to be followed in pursuance of the [police intervention] plan?"

Phiyega responded: "I knew that whatever plan they had to do, they would do it within the prescripts, as they are supposed to do it.

"In my job, I did not need to know it [the plan]. I was not there on the 14th [of August, when the plan was drafted] and I didn’t know what was in the plan, because I did not need to know."

Bizos asked Phiyega to explain why members of the police’s tactical units outnumbered officers from the public order policing unit, which primarily deals with crowd control matters.

"As a leader of the police, wouldn’t it be well-advised for you to ask why there were twice as many police officers, who are usually used in war-like situations, compared to those trained to manage crowds?" asked Bizos.

"Wouldn’t that be an important question for you to ask: 'Why are all the warlike, killing people being invited in such numbers to Marikana?"

Ishmael Semenya, for the police, objected, and said Bizos’s questions to the witness were not warranted.

Semenya said units, including the tactical response team, the national intervention unit and the special task force, which were deployed to Marikana, were not "warlike units".

"They are not trained to kill people. They are trained for law enforcement," he submitted.

Phiyega said the tactical units were assigned to support the public order police (POP) officers.

"They were there to support [police] personnel when high risk confrontation situations occur on individual POP members or to work out situations," she said.

Bizos said the deployment of the tactical units was tantamount to "a declaration of war on around 3 000 South African citizens".

The cross-examination continues on Thursday.

On 16 August, 34 striking mineworkers were shot dead and 78 were injured when the police opened fire 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.

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

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