Phiyega rejects newspaper report

2013-05-23 14:22
Riah Phiyega (Picture: AP)

Riah Phiyega (Picture: AP)

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Rustenburg - National police commissioner Riah Phiyega was misrepresented in a Sowetan newspaper article shortly after the Marikana shootings, the Farlam Commission of Inquiry heard on Thursday.

Under cross-examination by Dali Mpofu, for the wounded and arrested miners, Phiyega denied quotes attributed to her in the newspaper.

According to the article, Phiyega said police should not be sorry about shooting dead 34 miners on 16 August during the wage-related strike at Lonmin's platinum mine last year.

She had been speaking at the funeral of Warrant Officer Sello Ronnie Lepaku on 20 August.

Striking mineworkers killed Lepaku during the unrest. Another officer was also killed and one was injured.

"[The] safety of the public is not negotiable. Take into account the reasons why we did what we did," Phiyega was quoted as saying.

Misrepresentation

On Thursday, Phiyega denied she said any of this. It was a serious misrepresentation of what she had actually said at the funeral.

"I hold no authority on the words written by a journalist," she said.

Everything she said at the funeral had been scripted, and her script from the funeral did not contain any of the things the Sowetan reported on.

"If you look at other newspaper reports, not one of the others say this," said Phiyega.

Mpofu said merely because those words were not printed in her scripted speech, it did not necessarily mean she had not said them.

Commission chairperson, retired Judge Ian Farlam, enquired whether there was any video footage or audio available from the funeral.

Ishmael Semenya, for the police, said he was not sure and would look into it.

Mpofu also questioned why Phiyega had not followed up with the newspaper.

If the content was untrue, it would have had a damaging effect on herself and the SA Police Service (SAPS), he said.

"I didn't dispute it, because we were not responding to any statements at the time. We wanted to give this process [the commission] a chance," Phiyega responded.

"I was hopeful that we would get the opportunity to correct it."

Addressing the issue

Mpofu said Phiyega's lawyers had failed to raise the misrepresentation of her speech during her evidence-in-chief.

Phiyega said she believed that in taking part in the commission and answering the questions posed to her, she felt they were addressing it.

"I'm happy for this opportunity to address the commission. If they [Sowetan] have an appetite to correct it, they can do so. If they do not, I am doing it here," she said.

The commission, sitting in Rustenburg, is investigating the circumstances surrounding the deaths of 44 people during the Marikana unrest.

Police shot dead 34 striking Lonmin mineworkers on 16 August. Ten people, including two police officers, were killed in the preceding week.

Read more on:    lonmin  |  police  |  ian farlam  |  ishmael semenya  |  riah phiyega  |  dali mpofu  |  mahikeng  |  marikana inquiry  |  media

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