More bullet holes in cops’ Marikana story

2013-04-07 10:00

A senior North West police official says he would never have authorised officers’ decision to pursue Marikana strikers to a second battleground if he’d known people had already been killed.

For the police, it’s been a gruelling few weeks in the spotlight at the Marikana Commssion of Inquiry, and national commissioner General Riah Phiyega has had a torrid time on the stand.

This week, the police version of events suffered another blow when SA Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) lawyer Gcina Malindi read part of a statement made by the North West deputy police commissioner, Major-General William Mpembe.

Mpembe’s full statement has not been made public because it was not officially registered as an exhibit before the commission.

Malindi read a paragraph during his cross-examination of Phiyega on Friday.

In it, Mpembe – who was overseeing the operation from a helicopter – said he would not have authorised the officers’ decision to chase fleeing miners if he’d known that people had been shot dead already.

Mpembe’s admission is the first of its kind from police ranks.

Legal Resources Centre lawyer George Bizos has repeatedly accused Phiyega of evading key questions before the commission.

The veteran advocate said Phiyega seemed hellbent on absolving her officers of all wrongdoing in the events of August 16, when 34 miners were killed during clashes with police.

The police operation was severely criticised this week by Gary White, an international public order policing expert who was asked by the SAHRC to submit an opinion on the shootings.

In his provisional statement, submitted as evidence before the commission on Thursday, White – a former chief superintendent of Northern Ireland’s police service – said “there were clear deficiencies in the SAPS approach in ­respect of planning, preparation and operational execution” at Marikana.

White, who was given video and written material as well as volumes of evidence submitted to the commission so he could ­analyse the police operation, said: “There are also worrying gaps in the evidence presented by those who were involved.

“The general absence of specific detail in respect of evidence presented by officers in command positions can only lead me to conclude that there are also some concerning issues regarding accountability and accepting responsibility for what occurred.”

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