Phiyega sticks to her guns

2013-03-19 22:15
Riah Phiyega (Picture: Beeld)

Riah Phiyega (Picture: Beeld)

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Family breaks down at Marikana Inquiry

2013-03-15 08:38

A family member cried uncontrollably as national police chief Riah Phiyega voiced condolences to those affected at the Marikana shooting in the North West. Watch.WATCH

Rustenburg - National Police Chief Riah Phiyega stuck to her stance on Tuesday that police acted in self-defence when they shoot dead 34 striking Lonmin mineworkers on a hill near the mine in Marikana last year.

"I stand by my statement," Phiyega told the Farlam Commission of Inquiry into the events surrounding the shooting in North West on 16 August.

Cross examining her in Rustenburg, evidence leader Mbuyiseli Madlanga read a statement into the record by police officer Hendrich Wouter Myburgh about the shooting.

Myburgh said 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," Myburgh 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.

When 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? She responded: "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."

The commission's chairperson, 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 wanted to understand what had happened, but Myburgh could not give them more details to find or identify the person.

The day after the shooting, Phiyega was quoted as saying that police officers had had no choice but to "employ force to protect themselves" from the group of miners.

She said: "The militant group stormed towards the police firing shots and wielding dangerous weapons, and the police retreated and were forced to utilise maximum force to defend themselves.

"Police retreated systematically and were forced to utilise maximum force to defend themselves."

Phiyega stands by her comments

On Tuesday, Madlanga asked her if she stood by her comments.

Phiyega said: "To the best of my knowledge, with the facts I was given at the time, I stand by my statement."

When Madlanga asked if it was a fact that the "militant group stormed the police", Ishmael Semenya, for the police, objected, and said Phiyega was not an eye-witness.

Phiyega gave evidence for the first time on Thursday about the role played by the police in the events leading up to and on 16 August.

On that day, 34 striking mineworkers were shot dead and 78 were wounded when the police opened fire on them.

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

Phiyega has yet to touch on the question of who instructed the police to use live ammunition.

She defended Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa on Tuesday when Madlanga said her evidence did not suggest that he made any initiatives.

Phiyega said: "I have said he has given us leadership, he has given us political support that enabled us to do our work."

On Wednesday, the commission is expected to hold an in-loco inspection in the vicinity of the K3 shaft at Lonmin Platinum's mine in Marikana.

Read more on:    lonmin  |  police  |  nathi mthethwa  |  ian farlam  |  riah phiyega  |  mahikeng  |  marikana inquiry

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